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by Ranald T. Adams IV

Artwork by Liah McPherson

The town I come from is old and undistinguished,

though, distinguished people used to live here.

You can drive down one big road for a minute and a half

and see every house they lived in,

a memory reel my people desperately preserve

as if to say –

We were big once.

I remember the parking lots I sat in:

cigarette smoke over early-80s angst in my parents’ car

with CVS deodorant to mask my restlessness after the fact.

I remember the forests and the fields

and the drive-in movie theater

and the back-roads by the cemeteries;

places where I alternated between wondering at my luck

and wishing I was somewhere better.

The world was bigger than my town,

I always knew,

and I could look for bigger things

bigger places.

Somewhere out there was a place for me –

Somewhere not so parochial

Somewhere where people knew things

like I knew things

or thought I did.

But all I knew was the town, and the people in it.

The train stopped here

and ran to a city where the faces blended together

and I ran to that city when the town became stifling

and blended my face in with the rest.

I was cool,

real cool,

and the city was mine until it wasn’t,

until the streets flared up with a heat I wasn’t cool with,

until the flashing lights turned to sirens in my ears

and the hours walking its byways

turned to hours searching for return.

I knew it’d be there waiting for me.

The dead-end strip malls

and the hiking trails;

the gas station

two lights down

from another gas station.

I knew in the city

that I knew the town

and that the town knew me

and I wasn’t another face here –

I was waiting to be.

Published inPoetryNon FictionChapel Hill

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