How to Get Back to Chester
I remember the greasy moon floating
like a tire over the highway, the last
stars flecked like dust on the window
of my father’s garage. For years I’ve walked
away from the concrete fields of a lousy
childhood, the damp haze of life in Chester,
but now I’ve come back to follow the
moon through the toothed stacks of chimneys,
through the back alleys lit up by shabby
yellow lanterns. I’ve come here to stand
like a pilgrim before the tin shacks
holding their tin ears on the highway
while trucks roar by without stopping
and factories clack their fat tongues
together in wind. I’ve come here to listen
to strangers talk about football, to waitresses
talk to strangers. I’ve come to see myself
taking deep blasts from the old furnace.
Not much is changed here, yet
not much is left of childhood, either.
If you want to get back to Chester
you have to listen: you have to stand
like a penitent in your bare feet
and feel the air darken before a storm;
you have to stare at the one viny
plant waving on the family porch
until you feel your father’s grimy palm
gripping your hand, until you finally taste
the words at the back of your own mouth, saying
Don’t come back, son. And welcome.
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