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by Dawn McDuffie
Exit where rose-colored day lilies flood the median
of I-94, and turn right on the first nondescript road.
Pass Billy's Wedding Chapel. Turn left at a street
named after a tree you remember‐beech‐
its smooth bark carved with a heart that encloses
your name. From vacant lots that dot the street,
space settles on your skin. Children cool off
in a spray of water and rainbow, then run
to help Dad polish the car for Sunday.
You are lost, but you don't want to leave
this half memory. There are no stores nearby,
but there might be a river close, willows not too far.
The Fellowship of Freedom and Grace sells chicken
dinners or ribs with potato salad, coleslaw, peach
cobbler and iced tea, every plate blessed by the cook.
Trees here are older than childhood. Maple,
Hickory, and Oak cast islands of shade
on porches and front lawns, and shimmering heat
turns tall grasses into optical illusions. You feel an insect's
buzz as if it came from your throat, but it is only your body's
steady hum. Prairie Smoke, Cardinal Vine, Wild Lupine
explode like fireworks between houses‐back yards
overgrown with waves of purple Hollyhocks and
Queen Anne's Lace, flowers sometimes called weeds.