Ragged and bereft,
carrying little more than the story of himself,
he waits in the Oklahoma dust at an intersection of highway 40.
The lines of his face chronicle loss and dispossession;
his eyes reveal the love and hatred he has left behind.
He carries matches to light his fire,
a tin skillet to heat his supper,
and an ice pick to fight off men
yet more desperate than himself.
In his mind, the face of his wife, his child appear,
then the images are confused by memories
of rancor, betrayal, and early death.
As ruined as the fields of blighted corn beside the road,
he idly slaps the dirt from his hat,
scrapes the dried mud from his shoes,
and cleans his nails with a pocketknife.
He waits in the dust,
unable to go forward and unwilling to go back.
He waits with the only truth he knows:
that we are all equally undone by both victory and defeat,
from our grandest passions to our most shallow needs,
events as vast as war,
as small as a misspoken word.
— Patricia Rose
Patricia Rose lives in Sewickley taught English at Sewickley Academy. Her work has appeared in Taproot and Cathedral Poets.