Ode: tightening my Oil Belt

No, sometimes I don’t get it either. For I never liked living here. Wild and tempestuous, she made me mad with desire and gritted-teeth rage. I loved her and hated that I loved her.

Summers were too harsh, and Winters not harsh enough. The schizophrenia of Springtime and lingering swelter of Autumn stoked such a loathing, I would oft’ curse the day I’d ever found myself condemned to such a place.

The loneliness of the hayfields and sun-scorched meadow wilds. Baked blacktop back roads hiding broken down pumpjacks dry-humping the last desperate hopes of one more boom still to come. The prevailing provincial separatism that made every homestead hostile territory for any outlier with a wandering mind full of starry-eyed fancy or meandering whim of adventure. Between the – – wid— ope— space– – were enough narrow views to know I’d never find a place to fit in. Limitless depths of despair and hopes as dried as an August creekbed.

Oh, gods… did I hate this place. But I loved it too, and I hated that which I loved.

Clean azure afternoon skies, sending fragrant winds of wisteria and bougainvillea blowing clear through to star-filled evenings. The way the fireflies would linger over the tall grass in the mystic purple hours past sunset, as the cicada symphony sounded deep in reedy treetop tones.

The brokenhearted bawl and bellow over marching band fanfares and battle prayers. Vestal virgins ring the squared circle of gladiatorial combat. Untold hopes dashed and fulfilled upon the lots cast by mannish boys strutting and fretting their hour upon the stage — most ignorant of what they’re most assured — trodding down the lovely trim green fields on Friday night lights dotting the broad landscape from one greasy four-way blinking red light to the next.

Steaming parked car windows in hidden alcoves of towering pinewood pathways, baleful tones of George Straight and R.E.M. warbling through the woodlands, illuminated by glowing dashboard hues. The need and unquenchable thirst of being young and alone in a sea of blank stares.

Now the hate is gone — just as the curly dark hairs of youth pale and turn coarse — replaced with a sadness that lingers as a nostalgia only for a little while. Often, a restless boy becomes a patient man. Not all rivers find their way to the seas. Some disappear into dark forests, the sounds of rushing water that stray just beyond the day’s hearing. The love is all that’s left. The love is all that ever was.

I see my children now, stumbling idly along the same country paths their father once walked, and I want to read to them from the book of my memory. To capture their hearts with this love for a tiny plot of soil in the shady groves of God’s green earth. To teach them to swim in the forgotten rivers. To watch them run through the tall grass, holding a dandelion as it roars its seeds into the easterly winds.

To weave memories out of golden mornings as though everything matters, just as the everyday mysteries of my memories matter — teaching them that the forgotten past is neither forgotten nor past — but remains as close as a dream… fading softly, and just out of reach, ‘neath the foreboding shadow of the pine curtain.


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