One extraordinary day you rise
under a full moon and drive past sunup
a monotonous Inter-State stone slab,
into an apprehensive flat expanse of Kansas,
horizons of dusty heated shimmering haze.
Three no-nonsense badges in dark glasses
at the first gate. One standing statue-like
with a shotgun, watching. Another quizzing you
— your intentions, your I.D. and passcode —
while the other circles the car, peering
in the rearview mirror. Like being swallowed
when the first gate opens to the second gate,
and both lock shut behind you. Like swimming
in the belly of a whale, standing in line
at Reception, treading a whirlpool
of paperwork and permissions. The waiting room
drowning in worriment and dread,
brothers and wives and buddies who’d promised
to visit, and here we are. This once. At least
you can leave this place justified with that.
And you can drive home wide-eyed that evening
to the opulence of freedoms you call your own.
While the man you’ve come to see greets you
forever stone-faced, embarrassed maybe,
concealing the trials of his routine “inside.”
The pair of you trading stares through plexi-glass,
shouting in the din of so many miseries. Groping
for pleasantries. Discovering none.
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Photo by Kevin Gessner /Flickr