After two plates of chips and dip,
three meanderings to the bar,
and several identical football conversations,
you understand the wisdom
in this occurring just once every ten years.
You listen to the speeches of your old classmates,
the guy who has more kids than he can count,
the Vegas masseuse, the neck-tie specialist,
your old girlfriend who now likes girls,
and the soft-spoken cattle rancher
who declined his moment at the microphone,
slipped outside under the torch of a cigarette,
and urinated an August arc over the balcony
that poured onto the green of hole number 6
and ghosted upward like a steaming history.
You’re amused at who got married,
who was arrested, and how fast the night goes.
And later, when the violet sky is soured
by a sure and coming dawn,
you sit in a garage surrounded by faces
of mule deer, elk, and bobcats.
Drunken bodies are heaped over pool tables,
they snore in lawn chairs and tractor mowers.
Your realize, this is your life, this is you
smothered in a world that was once so large,
this is you shuffling the sidewalk to the house
where you’re not a prodigal son or mythical
visitor, but a stranger racking up the years,
doing your hometown proud.
~ ~ ~
Rick Marlatt’s third chapbook, November Father, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. His first collection, How We Fall Apart, was named the winner of the 2010 Seven Circle Press Poetry Award, while his second chapbook, Desired Altitude, won the 2012 Standing Rock Cultural Arts prize. Rick is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of California, Riverside, where he served as poetry editor of the Coachella Review. Previously, Rick studied English and Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where he also earned a MA in Creative Writing. Rick is currently a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A teacher, poet, screenwriter, and literary critic, his work has appeared widely in print and online publications including Rattling Wall, New York Quarterly, and Rattle.Marlatt teaches English in Kearney, where he lives with his wife and their two sons. Read more at rickmarlatt.com.