by Jonathan Travelstead
The tales of travellers are notoriously false
You don't register the waitress over the pneumatic arm or the bell’s jingle.
The search, gone into its second day for rafters lost on the upper section of Jack's Fork,
but you're already out the door, already fileting the Mark Twain's Ozarks,
counting crows until dark.
You’re throttling asphalt for chat, plunging the fog for signs
between dwindling firs & willows, the fuel lamp’s yellow beacon which ticks on,
compels you to prop your bike on the shoulder, spread Missouri's red & blue veins
over the teardrop tank. Threads of ink bead to black.
Twig snap. Wrist
fracturing upward against concrete. Visored breath & fog strangle the motorcycle’s
high-beam. You told no one where you would leave these asters of exhaust
for no one to find. In one of your father’s stories of a new world
where alien constellations
map the sky in the ways you can’t go home. What you wouldn’t give for
the raucous blat of a Mack truck, or it’s plaintive, down-shifting whine. Instead,
trade Descartes for kneepads, for prayer.
Reason surrendered for a silk rope’s crack. It’s then the night unclutches
its ghost costume on a picnic table, & a boat ramp descending into Current River
where three effigies of men uproot like vowels, & yawn toward you. Once you may
have recognized their pleas for help, but now you hear nothing
over the heart’s runaway beat & bedraggled lope. Your dumb machine
falls like a cow to its side & you clutch for a pitchfork, or machete, all the dangers
nowhere near. The governor in your chest barely functions, a needle twitching,
dangerously, in the red.
Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia. He has published work in The Iowa Review, on Poetrydaily.com, and has work forthcoming in The Crab Orchard Review, among others. His first collection, How We Bury Our Dead, was released in March 2015.