Self-Portrait as a Mountain I Do Not Intend to Climb

 

Perhaps this was the way it was always supposed to be

Me at the bottom, the very last ladder rung

and everyone else looming above

scrambling in that

Good Employee Race 

Happy Family Race

Fulfilled Hobbies Race

Sweaty Gym Race

Rat Rat Race

Each rung teeming with

thousands of grey bodies.

 

(how life a few rungs up was,

i remember,

little rat

scrambling up

to the next shiniest thing)

 

I’m so low, so

uninspiring and lacking 

in accomplishment

A cockroach

every child must leap over

like hopscotch 

I smile and wave

The kids always wave back

The parents always turn their heads away.

I have no kids of my own to smile at

No money and no job either

No real taste for lifting weights or painting,

the violin or stocks or woodwork

No great work to justify my existence,

not a single Magnum Opus

to hang heavy from my neck 

I eat take-out every day

the styrofoam containers 

pushes the dust off my desk

Curry drips from my fingers,

barbeque sauce pools in my lap 

and my mouth is smeared

with custard and chocolate.

 

(they drop dry pellets

from the ladder top

they taste of

apathy’s bitter tang)

 

Some days I venture outside,

much to my neighbors’ horror

tea mug in hand 

Warmed like the sun’s beams

that golden light 

grows my bones out

like roots, sticking me into the ground

I throw the mug 

against a mossy tree

The ceramic shatters, and I

sever my roots from the soil.

 

I walk to the highway

stick a tongue and thumb out

hum a few tunes

and do a little tap dance for

the oncoming motorists

but no one will stop for me

They’re all driving 

too fast.

 

(up up up

climb climb climb

higher higher higher)

 

I stay, perfectly stranded

by the roadside

until the Devil stops for me

in his Great Black Train

Care to ride?

He asks

I shrug

Maybe later.

He raises an eyebrow

You have something to do?

I check my bare wrist

I still have time.

 

A trucker stops next,

woman with a grey mop for hair

and night sky for a mouth

Tango?

She asks, holding out a hand

We dance onto the freeway

until someone tows her truck

away

She watches it go,

does one more dance to

the symphony of horns

then bids me adieu.

 

(slip slip slip

the world is entirely

above me now

but i’m smiling

somehow)

 

There’s a Greyhound station nearby

I walk to it barefoot, the soles of my feet 

melting into hot asphalt

I hop on

and grab change from my jeans

counting out quarters for half-an-hour

until the bus driver sighs

and waves me on

I walk to the very back

and sit, head against the window

A passenger, thankful for the ride.

 

This poem is about: 
My country
Our world

Comments

Need to talk?

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741