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Poetry: Gregory Lawless

Getting Lost on the Back Roads of Pennsylvania, While Trying to Find His Parents’ New House, the Author & His Now-Ex-girlfriend Stop by the Side of the Road & Consider What to Do Next


It is night. I shut my eyes

& they open again.

They are lost
the way a bead

of water gets lost
on a hot mirror.

They itch from the faint
needle fall of stars.

I aim the flashlight
at the map, & giant moths
crash into highways

& lakes, like monsters
in Japanese
horror flicks.

My little circle
of light looks

to the tiny
unseen inhabitants

of this paper Pennsylvania

like a tornado
of sun: they burn apart

& tell me to go
home. I am

home, I tell them,
which is why I am lost. I need their help

getting down
from this ladder
of night, & they won’t. I need to drive

through the hurt

forest & wind up
at a 24-hour donut shop

where I can sugar myself
and coffee myself

& pretend this country
is not the enemy
of the dawn. Men

live here & ride their snowmobiles
through the soft bodies

of deer. They sharpen their boots
in the mud. They blacken
each other’s eyes

with fistfuls of mid-
night. Someone
or something throws a snowball

of midnight at the back
of my head
& the word ‘fuck’
rolls out the front

which means the map
is broken

& the flashlight

has run out
of ideas. You

are no help. I ask you
to hold the map

& your hands backpedal
into pockets. I ask you
to pour what’s left
of the flashlight

into my cupped hands
& the door
sulks suddenly shut.

Inside, we pass the silence
back & forth

like a joint
& take big
selfish breaths

as the headlights flash
into a field,

spotting the flying saucers
of deer eyes
in the grasses.

They are green & lovely
& they mean us no harm.

But when I turn
the ignition, the deer run off
like a gang of hurdlers,
leaving me alone

with you & my fear. Together

we drive past beasts
& night birds
& crackling barns,

seeking the blind
moon. All the small houses

are on strike. The porch lights
haunted with gnats.

& When I roll my window

down to suck in
the dark air, you roll
your window up, as though
there’s only so much world

you can take.



All rights reserved to Gregory Lawless.

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