With My Last 20 Dollars

With my last 20 dollars
I’d fill my tank
and hit I-70 heading East.
After 35 minutes I’d pass the Regal Inn,
where I used to joke
the mayor had his whores,
then I’d hit route 13
and get off going South
past that lonely red house
surrounded by petrol depots
with the “for sale” sign in its window
that comes and goes
but always has the same number,
and in a few minutes 13 opens up
and I cruise through miles
of that good ol’ Ohio farmland,
I cut through fields
smooth green like bed sheets
populated only by the occasional,
solitary tree
ready-made for poetry,
the kind of spots
that make me want to stop,
write a sonnet for the grazing cattle
then lean my head back
and dream
because for that instant
I am Wordsworth, Frost, Blake.
Soon enough
I hit Somerset,
a small town
with a round-about square
where people stop and wave politely
as they yield to the right,
where the elementary school
sits directly across Main Street
from the church
and just past the bait shop
up on the right
sits General Sheridan’s house
with its humble pillars
and quaint Victorian charm
and the people of Somerset
keep it just like it was
because they’re still proud.
After that it’s a hard left on 669
and I weave through foothills
like my dad used to
still holding my breath
as I pass the cemetery on the hill,
still doing a double-take
at the old white house
with its wall of solar panels,
still wondering
what life must be like
for the kids who grow up here
and go to Crooksville High
as I catch sight of it
on that small stretch of 96.
Then it’s 669 again
and a few miles
of flannelled men
on rotted front porches
before the right turn on 555
and the only pop machine in Deavertown
and the last turn of the journey,
a vague left
on route 3,
Stub road
that bends around Sharky’s place
with his baying hounds
and then I break through
the final wall of trees
that mark the end of the world
and the beginning of
Campbell land
because there are ghosts here,
voices I recognize
that I’ve never heard.
The spirit of a black dog named Bear
watches over these fields
big as a horse
protective as an old grey wolf,
I feel her running
along side the car
at the edge of the road,
I see her in glimpses,
shimmers of the dying light
that flicker past the window
until I slow
and come to a stop
in the gravel
across the road from the house.
Somewhere along this stretch
Stub turns into
Tridelphia Road,
the address on the mailbox
reads 10110
so funny
to find binary code
in a place like this.
Getting out of the car
I head first to the smithy
where they used to make their tools
holding itself up
mouth wide open
among Oak trees
whose very roots
break through its foundation
and climb bracingly
up walls of wood planks
so old
I have to strain my eyes
just to see the grain,
in here there is a scythe
forged by hands long dead
their departure marked by years of rust
on a brittle-dusted blade,
in here there are shelves
filled with screws
blackened by age
placed generations ago,
perhaps lost
only to be found
on this evening
long after the task is done.
I pocket a few
as I leave
and head up to the house
glancing briefly
at a pile of lumber
that used to be a barn as well,
a place where once
rugged fingers milked cows
and threw slops to swine,
where Ivor took his whiskey,
and where men,
not so long ago,
drank beer together
and, with blood-wet numbing fingers,
skinned deer by flashlight.

Walking past the house
there is a bench swing
in the yard
where I sat once
with my fiancé
and my father
eating blackberries
picked off the land
from a milk carton
with its top cut off,
and there is a pump
to draw drinking water
from a well gone dry
only an ornament now,
its tin cup still hanging
painted red
its lever,
no longer useful
painted blue
and I hesitate a moment
as I pass the door to the porch
and I don’t want to go inside,
I came from there,
from the indoors.
I make my way past
the small shed,
“the hunting lodge,”
littered with the corpses
of thousands of houseflies,
Ladybugs and Yellowjackets
swept clean but once a year,
each November,
to be used for a week
then forgotten
until deer season comes again.
I walk up the hill
that crests behind the house
under the arms of a great Birch,
and that is where I rest,
sitting on a log
balanced on its end
next to a cold fire pit.
I close my eyes and listen—
out here the wind
plays the fields like a flute,
a song unique
from any other wind
traveling any other place
its touch musses my hair
and chills me
as I wait,
my last 20 dollars spent
not knowing where I’ll go
but knowing where I am.