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Poem-a-Day

To Go to Freeport

TO GO TO FREEPORT

To go to Freeport, you must leave
The road of concrete and take
The road of wheat. You must go
By waterway, by deer trail,
Along the little mud-colored
Creeks, across country, must show
The redwing blackbirds you too
Are wounded and bloodied,
Must suffer the stigmata
Of barbwire. Do not ask anyone
The way to Freeport. They will
Point you in the wrong direction.
Do not trust the bullet-riddled
Signs. The map you carry
Is obsolete. Better to burn it.
No one wants you to visit
Freeport, the town itself
Least of all. All it wants is
To die in peace. The stores
Are closing like flowers at dusk.
The prairie is taking back
Its old territory, headquartered
In the cemeteries. Who are you
To disturb such processes?
This is why no one will help you.
Even the dead will whisper,
“Go away.” Approaching porches,
People will leave rockers rocking,
Lock deadbolts, draw curtains.
Do you really want to go
To Freeport? There is nowhere
To eat there, nowhere to drink,
No one to talk to. There are no
Books in the library. In the park
The painted horses go round
And round but there
Are no children to ride them.
They’ve shut the waterfall off.
The bars are dark and empty.
The bartenders spend their time
Swatting flies. In the theater
They play old movies for no one.
No one sweeps up the popcorn.
I should warn you that if you
Go to Freeport it is possible
You may never leave. You may
Find yourself standing behind
The counter of the pawn shop,
Examining a pearl found
In the mud of the Pecatonica.
The man who brought it in
Will be gone when you raise
Your eyes to tell him it’s worthless.
Now you’re in the little booth
Watching the painted horses
Go round and round.
Now you’re giving a tour,
Talking about the debate
Between Lincoln and Douglass
In 1858, the trees listening
Out of politeness, the bronze
Statues of the debaters
Turning green with boredom
And time. Now you find
Yourself in the library, shelving
A book eighty years overdue.
In the bar you don’t even bother
Swatting flies. They land lightly
In your arm hair. You let them
Live on in their generations.
You cannot remember
Coming here, or by what roads.
One day you deliver a letter
To yourself. Someone wants
To know how to get to Freeport.
You stand in your bedroom
Window in the evening,
Wondering whether
You should answer them.
Finally, you sit down
At your desk, and by the last
Light begin to write:
“To go to Freeport, you must leave
The road of concrete and take
The road of wheat…”



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