On a road that cuts through the richest, non-irrigated land
in the nation, according to some Lancaster, PA, natives,
a minivan slowed, and a woman with a good haircut yelled,
Do you want a ride, or are you walking because you want to?
I didn’t reply because my life felt so wrecked—
no matter the reason, either you get this or you don’t—
wrecked in the way that makes gestures of tenderness
devastating, like the time I showed up in Minnesota, brittle
with sorrow, and the professor sent to fetch me
asked if I wanted heat in the seat of his sports car
or the local apple he’d brought in case I arrived hungry.
I didn’t know people make seats to hold a body in radiance
like the merciful hand of God. The apple was crisp and cold
and sweet. Maybe I looked in his eyes and shook his hand
in both of mine when I left, I don’t remember. Months later,
he sent an empty seed packet, torn open, lithographed
with a fat, yellow annual no one grows any more, flamboyant
as Depression-era glassware. That was all, thank you.
Thank you, oh thanks so much, I finally told the woman
framed by a minivan window, but yes, I do want to walk.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.