Terra Incognita

Terra Incognita

( Bus Route from Goodwill to the Veterans Administration Hospital and Back Again) 
        —For Maurice Ferguson

We should add it up, each church’s promises, 
as if miracle were a national anthem. 
All of us on the bus on our way to revelation—
all along Main Street, the shopping clutter 
gathered to the curbs. We should try, even here, 
to keep a tally, to reckon as we wait for arrival  

how many haircuts in how many hair salons 
on just one Friday? How many scissors 
shearing? Shiny trinkets at Big Lots, 
SUVs in the parking lots?  How many
pills tendered at CVS, their distillates of cure? 
Anti-depressants, anti-psychotics,  

inhibitors, erectors, regulators of heartbeats.
To count is to defibrillate, to will the future, 
to hope, like the lottery tickets, luck-for-sale, 
hanging coiled, “Winner Takes All,” 
“Beginners Luck,” “Aces and Eights”— 
and their antithesis: the boxes of discount bullets

WalMart displays, the steady gallons pumped 
all day at the SpeedyWay ? How many lunchtime drive-thru 
burgers, the cows they once were, in their first field, 
a throng of blackly articulated flies 
haloing their heads. Each reckoning 
an ontology, an incarnation, and we,

its supplicants, to the very shoes
that bear us, to the very woman who glued
the soles onto them. To count is to extrapolate.
Between here and the Veteran’s Hospital where your dad 
died, and your grandfather died, the road 
bears every bone.Our bus stop is next up—

each of us a litany, half incantation, half prophecy,
veering in its mad addition; we are what we have tried
to gather, to name. How many days until 
the Bartlett trees rain their armistice parade confetti petals 
on our small town, our empire, our anesthesia? 
How many soldiers shipped out. How many ghosts.

(Heartwood Literary Journal; finalist Heartwood Broadside Series)