I don’t know if other people feel like there’s a life running alongside their so-called real life like an access road runs alongside the main highway.
It’s funkier, lonelier;
You didn’t expect to find yourself on this one- lane frontage path,
You kept thinking you’d get on the freeway any minute now, where you fondly imagined yourself doing eighty, ninety, hurtling down the untrammeled autobahn of free will.
That was the life you thought would be yours when you were young and everything seemed laid out as at a picnic with red gingham tablecloths.
Only it was never like that, not really, you had just been raised with too many stories, always stories, not the real, ancient ones with burning bushes and three-headed dogs, but the whitewashed, idealized, candy-coated pap fed to children in mid- twentieth-century suburbs.
And so in your fantasies you neglected to factor in the reality of ants crawling up your legs at the actual picnic, the way they tickle and sting, or the spilled juice and crumbled potato chips and your beautiful mother young again, and strong, but anxious and discontented amid all that messy beauty because she, too, was always calibrating how reality didn’t measure up to the story.
So you’ve inherited her dilemma, what else is new, and evening is drawing nigh, and you are still on that access road, which as it turns out is going to the same place the main road was headed all along.
This poem is published in the book, In The Time of Great Fires, by Alison Luterman (2022).