Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Road Home

It's 5 a.m. and today is a John Philip Sousa song of a sunrise.
I am driving 17 hours home from Louisiana.
As I leave New Orleans, Promised Land, by Chuck Berry,
As made famous by Elvis Presley, plays on oldies radio.

I have promised myself I won't stop to see Graceland.

But, boy, don't we white men sing pretty about America.

The road back from New Orleans to Chicago
is a stripe on a bleeding flag.
While coasting down the Interstate
I pass what can only be described as amber waves of grain.

Still, unless Free Fallin' is playing,
my image of the flag is always at half mast.
There is so much blood in this soil
it is almost sacrilege for the flag to be entirely raised.
As if death is not still the creditor of our discharged debt.
Even so, the sky is blue and
The flags along I-70 fly as free as
anything tethered can hope for.

I am driving past Graceland. I will not stop to see it.
It's history is too sad
And I am eager to see your 2nd generation eyes.
You, Irish-Catholic
I, Polish-Jewish
Both of us stale off the boat
And it means the world to me that neither of us always belonged here

I am leaving my time in New Orleans
defending men for getting caught with drugs that
Everyone I know did in college.
Absurd how so many are still told that they don't belong here
As if we aren't all children of the same fabricated Eden?

The Waffle House in Biloxi, Mississippi
is my favorite Waffle House.
While eating brunch there on the way down to New Orleans
I think I heard someone confess to a murder

Maybe I should do the same
I admit I only protested our last two wars
as a Monday morning quarterback
But The flags along I-70
Are so seductive
As they wink at me like a hitchhiker.
They don't quite represent how at our wedding
we will both take names created by Ellis Island

Or the blood beneath the tires
Or Chuck Berry or Graceland.
But that the flags can't help but
blow in the wind or bleed through the heat
Evokes a desperate prayer that they
at least signify a constant battle against stasis.

Home was never just America.
Home was never quite Chicago
Maybe it was your bed
Or the Bears game
Not quite my childhood synagogue
Not quite the Memphis blues
Or the other side of the prison glass
Or the fact that I don't care about Columbus Day's politics
as long as I don't have go to work.
Home was never these things

It was never anything
But either way, I can't wait to be back home soon.

— Eric S

Eric S is a member of the Mental Graffiti Team that represented Chicago at the National Poetry Slam in Boston this past August. He is also the author of phylum — a chapbook of poems and ramblings that he has available when performing his poetry.

We heard Eric perform this poem live and had to share it with our readers. Eric agreed to share it with us and we share it with you now on the day that America travels most. Wherever home is, Happy Thanksgiving!

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