by Catherine Pierce
The new thing is an inoculation against
the scourge of dullness. It pricks
for a moment but then from the small
puncture rises a large red sun that arcs
slowly upward until the whole sky is,
momentarily, full. The new thing is good
for you. Necessary, even. You need
to go to Bratislava. You need to eat
raw oysters. You need a story
about the man who sat next to you
on the Orient Express with eyes of milk
and rancor, who opened his bag
to reveal a sniveling possum. You need
to tell that story weeks later, laughing
over how you tripped in your haste
to exit the car, spilling your Orangina
everywhere. It’s not enough to relearn
basic French from a phone app.
It’s not enough to become skilled
at baking focaccia. These victories
have the heft of tissue, the thrill
of an uneventful dentist visit,
and in a month you’ll forget the past
perfect of etreyet again. Don’t cut
your hair. Don’t volunteer half-heartedly
at the soup kitchen. You need to
get out, is what I’m saying. Pack up
your family, your dog, your courage
and leave behind the aspen groves
or soybean fields or strip malls of your life.
The enchiladas in the small-town
Mexican restaurant 400 miles away
are better than the enchiladas in your town.
Wherever you go, Ursa Major actually
looks like a bear. In a bookstore you’ll find
a used copy of a James Dickey book
you’ve been meaning to read
and you’ll finally read it by the yellow,
flickering bedside light in your motel.
Your child will sleep through the night.
Your husband will stop and watch you
as you heft peaches at a roadside stand.
Your dog will come when called.
You’ll find a ghost town. You’ll find ruins.
And suddenly you’ll remember what
it felt like to open your window in May
and hear crickets for the first time
all season. You’ll remember the time
the construction men looked at you
as you strode down the street eating
a mint chocolate chip cone and you
were so glad with the day and so pleased
with your green skirt and your ice cream
that you knew they would smile and say
hello, and that’s exactly what they did.
You’ll hear a steel drum band at some
cheesy tourist bar and your chest will open
into joy. Joy—remember it? It’s that feeling
you have when a red sun rises out of a place
you never thought could house a sun.