Travel Planning from the Trailer Park


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A farm kid, car salesman & Fulbright scholar, Arlo Voorhees splits his time between PDX and Budapest. Be you so compelled, you can find his new poems, essays and translations in The Moth, Rattle  [+]

Image of Short Circuit #02

“And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness, so that duck and vodka, when they seem to be the only ones in town, are not even duck and vodka.”
- Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

 

It’s far too late; the sun already teasing clods of frost and gilding the vacant lot with unwanted light, but we’re still up, drinking beer and staring at the globe on the kitchen table.

1986. The once-shimmering oceans—diluted to a gray tincture—lap at phantom states like the USSR, by far the biggest country in this technicolor world.

For some reason I want to tell you about Rachmaninoff, the great Russian composer, who having lost his country lost his voice too. He died in Beverly Hills. 

But it’s far too late, and we’re playing a game. You spin the globe, close your eyes, and stop it with your finger. Wherever you land, we have to go. No exceptions, you say.

Your finger circles, nosedives into the Middle East and white-washes Syria. Aleppo, the fabled outpost of the Silk Road brought home by Marco Polo. The original global village. 

You say Aleppo is gone. We can’t go there. It’s far too late.

The globe is spinning again. I can’t take it anymore. It feels too imperial—me with my beer, you with that shiny fingernail. I stop its revolution and push it against the sill.

Really, darling, where have you always wanted to go? I ask as if you aren’t my wife, as if we haven’t lived together for the last ten years. You say Iceland. 

Iceland, really? I tell you what I know, scraps from a folktale my Godmother told me about a wise man who could see the future but couldn’t grow a beard. And I can’t remember details, but I think his family was burned alive. That’s great, you say.

And suddenly all is still, shuttered. We lapse and teeter. Don’t worry, my love. 
I won’t cut my hair nor look ahead. I see what’s before me.

Outside the kitchen window, I see the trailer park, junkies hawking stolen bikes, and the reflection of this globe from another time, each continent distorted, lands unnamed, another world of opportunity. 

It’s far too late to re-consider. I see what’s before me. 

I see your grandfather buried in a Soviet labor camp. Vodka and duck. 
I see you frozen and outside the fire. 

The October sun, late and golden in the broken glass.

 

6

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Image of Keith Simmonds
Keith Simmonds · ago
Well crafted and enjoyable piece!
Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
Arlo, I enjoyed your humorous and thought provoking global poem that makes me feel like the the world is small in some ways but huge in others. Bravo! When you aren't playing drinking games with your wife and have a brief second, check out my entry, "Maize of Color" in the short fiction category and vote for it if you like it. It is entered in America: color it in...contest. Tony

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