Today's poem is by Al Maginnes

The Gospel of Leaving

Before we knew the world, we wanted to know the limits
of the world. We plundered The Gospel of Weather

whose single verse is motion, a page rewritten each day,
its inaccuracies ingrained more deeply than its truths.

We followed the false paths of sidewalks marked
with initials of children dead or long-vanished until

we crossed the highway to red dirt trails leading
up to the dull pocket of lake. The town went invisible

from there, save a few church steeples, rising singular
as the hands of the girl who bowed her head at lunch

to bless the invisible steam rising from corn, tasteless beans,
sticks of freezer-burned fish. We followed footpath

and smoke-drift from there up into the tree line
to the mouths of the caves, veins of dark and gravity

we dared ourselves to enter but never did. Pine needle

and leaf-corpse piled dense beneath the trees so the dirt

never dried. And we never walked far enough to leave
evidence of man-life behind us. There was always a pint

leaning empty under a tree, a twisted cigarette pack.
A pair of names shining, new scars in the brown flesh

of a tree. Always a sign to say our lives were never
our own. Above us, the crest of a hill like the promise

of afterlife though we knew that if we topped that hill,
there would be another valley, a steeper hill to climb,

a progression proving that we needed to leave this place
as soon as we were able. As we descended, our shadows stretched

long enough to blend with each other. The gold courthouse dome
emerged, burning in this rare angle of sun. If I believed

in a church-quiet and eventless heaven, empty of all
save joy, I might have asked some future saint—Shakespeare,

Dante, Bill Evans—to ease my passage. But how long will anything,
even rapture, last? We return to what we know.

and most of us learn so little that we walk the clatter
of dirt life and its ten million discords until

we have no choice but to love, even though every descent
is rehearsal, a goodbye we do not own yet.

Copyright © 2017 Al Maginnes All rights reserved
from The Next Place
Iris Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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