University Town

Having spent last night

In this University town

Tooling around

With well-adjusted kids

Who have nothing

Except time

To charm each other,

I wake late

And am struck

Like a sword in the gut

With thinking about

The stress of the clock

And that ongoing need

For politeness

As I wait

For my host’s

Breakfast to be finished.

My omelet,

Had been prepared to my liking,

And I filled my pack

With free food

For the whole of this

Empty day

As if my life depended on it.

I put my tray of dirty dishes

On a conveyor belt,

And watch

As it disappears

Into a fairyland.


After I depart,

I head into town.

The sun

Spanks off the sidewalk

Highlighting the gardens

With spring tulips

That are more pristine

Than I ever seen

Because a man

Tends them well

For all to see.

I hit the strip:

A gas station

An Italian Restaurant.

The other side of Main Street

Sidewalk disappears

And grass spills like waves

Toward the dirt and gravel

That munch and crackle

Beneath my feet.

There are

Large open lawns

With woodpiles

And dandelions

And sparse houses.

When the road ends I walk

Straight into unclaimed land

That you might find in park.

I walk through

People’s yards

I can’t care anymore.

I imagine

Mustering up powers

Of negotiation,

To the barrel of a shotgun

That might suddenly

Attend to me.


I keep on going

Until I hit the river.

I admire the flow of the

Creamed coffee water

That spurts

Over the collection of stones.

Downstream through thickets,

I try to imagine

That I am deep in a wilderness.

That the flow of the river is familiar

In spite of the soot

Off the interstate

Which is visible above.

Steering myself to stay in the strip

Of woodland that shields

The river from civilization.

I feel the need to balance myself

As one could easily

Fall out of this narrow oasis

Because it is scant.

And the river has graphically

Vomited any trace

Of wood that it has consumed.

So that the banks look

Like a Civil War battlefield


Suddenly a weasel

Scuzz-bugs away from me.

And I am reminded

Of the rats in the city park

Big as rabbits, bounding

Across the sewer.

I feel dirty.

I descend the bank.

I fall to my knees

I think about the University

With its polished floors.

I want to be anointed and purified.

I want to purge

The hatred within.

I raise my eyes,

To an encampment of holes

Up on the bank

And a pair of eyes gleam

I make a dash,

To leave behind the filth.


Further along,

As time presses forward,

There is a back yard

That spills its way down

To the waterline.

Here, pesticide toxins

Battle earth scum,

Beat it back,

Far away

From the artificial perfection

Of chemical green,

Human fashion;

And the driveway is swept black.

And there is a soccer net,

And rope swing

That look strong and secure.

They remind me

Of a young couple’s trust fund

And the tradition

Of education

That I was born into.



An embankment

Has emerged on my right.

I ascend it wildly

And find it to be strewn with garbage.

At the top sits an old church

That has been converted

To a vacant convenience store.

On the front door

An old sign reads

“Students Welcome.”

I realize that I am on the road

That exits this University Town.

I start hiking on the road,

Trying to follow the river

As far as I possibly can.

The road forks then ascends

Into a ramp that crosses the river.

I look down at the river

Which descends further toward

The Ocean,

Picking more and more human waste.


In my days at a ghetto University

There was

The library

And the men,

Who cleaned it through the years,

Whose cheesesteaks

I would pack

With meat

To show my gratitude.

There had been

The Glock under the grill

And the shotgun over

The Trashcan

To help me

So that I could pay my rent.

I could follow the river

Deeper into the heartland

Of America—

It continues on its way

Through small towns,

Through back yards

And the locals

Who live in them.

Perhaps I would

Pass my future.

If I could follow it

Further and further;

But I turn around instead

And head back

To the University.

I can’t wait to hop in my car.

When I do,

It’ll only be a few minutes

Until I am far away

From this nowhere place.