William Doreski

Like the One Mao Took

Walking a hundred gray miles
from summer house to winter house
with one shoe bent at the heel
takes five days. Last year we did it
in three: you strident in boots
and me with flea-weight gym shoes.
Rain-tossed trees shed their leaves
and shower us like a parade.
Passing cars splash us with glee.

Of course we could drive the whole
hundred miles, but house by house,
tree by tree, every village en route
speaks in tongues we unravel
and memorize as we pass. The wind
pronounces us over and over.
On bridges over sullen rivers
we imagine great baptisms
hardly anyone survives. Passing
the state prison we cheer for men
coddling their addictions and sins,
preparing themselves for new lives.
If we reach our townhouse we’ll find
burglars have looted it again,
leaving the fridge yawning
and our backgammon set amok.

Why can’t we drive? Three hours
at most, and tonight we’d sleep
under shivery black satin sheets
instead of under dripping pines
in a picnic grove in the suburbs.
You like this grimacing life,
the plod and drag of long walks
like the one Mao took the length
and breadth of China. The miles slop
and flop and crows linger
over roadkill, the dying light
resculpting us with pink and mauve
tremors too crude for flattery.

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