Back to Issue Twenty-Four.

the poem climbs the scaffold and tells you what it sees



Charlottesville, VA

Driving alone down Old Lynchburg Road in the lilac haze of dusk
it is so beautiful that for a moment you forget
that the root word in this road you drive down every day is lynch
that the origin of lynch as you know it comes from the name of men also named Lynch
though no one seems to know which one of them should be credited for this
and you think to yourself         somewhere in here is probably a metaphor
about the power of naming      of how easy it is to forget the origins of things
when you hold such power
but driving down Old Lynchburg Road this is not just another history lesson or a play
with words         it is these two gallons of gas left in this car that isn’t yours
and the fresh growl in your stomach reminding you
that your days in this place are as numbered as light-polluted stars and poems
poems you could take or leave
at least this is what you tell yourself as you’re doing all this driving alone because
what exactly is loneliness if not the desire to have invitations to turn down
and what exactly are poems if not invitations to look in the rearview mirror
to see your self and your past moving further from each other
while you hear your own name called from a single tree in a forest of trees
singing of their fruit
look    this bottlenecked mob of maples you thread through every day is just one more
pinprick in the constellation of hungers that brings you back
to this arbored byway again and again
gap-mouthed and lust-struck as a murder of crows despite yourself
despite how many times you’ve killed the animal inside you only to meet it again in the morning
breathing out of your own mouth as though you have never taken a word to its throat
as though you have never in your life been your own grim reaper
decked in black from scalp to heel
scythe in hand ready and eager to meet yourself
pounding at your own door
for all the talk you keep hearing these days about the need for gallows humor
you have to wonder who is putting what or whom on the scaffold
as you drive Old Lynchburg Road     so curved and steep you cannot see
the faint parting of light lying
beyond it


Natasha Oladokun is a Cave Canem fellow, poet, and essayist. Her work has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Harvard Review OnlinePleiadesImage, Indie Film MinuteBearings Online, and elsewhere. She is Assistant Poetry Editor at storySouth, and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Hollins University, her MFA alma mater.

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