“Rootbound” by John Paul Davis

John Paul Davis


Girl, girl, sweet wife, let us
get out of here while we still can. We
are both so bruised by the city,
bombarded, irradiated. This here
is an imitation of life at best.

Would you have thought ten years ago when we
were both striving towards urbia, dolor
of our small-time homes bannered over us
like a white-blue sky, that we
would now give it up, and gladly,
for quiet, for good work, for belonging, for love?

Like so many things, there is nothing
evil about a city in itself, but with us
it has become an uphill boulder, a carcinogen.
I’m tired of seeing you leaned
over by life so.

I’m not saying it’ll be easy.
I see the way you take the daisies
from their tiny pots, rip
at the roots, break them from themselves,
unwinding their tight alliances
with themselves so they might
spread in larger pots. We
are ourselves wrapped around ourselves,
insular, tangled, thirsty for water
that can’t be coaxed out
of space that isn’t there.

Is it this place? Places
like it? This zombie economy?
The sky of no stars?
Phone companies?
Insurance companies?
Street gangs?
In the end, they’re all the same;
they’ll keep taking and taking
until there’s no love left in us
and we are takers too.

I don’t want to be the perpetual stranger,
what a city makes of a person
given enough time. I want to see
a billion stars spilled out generous
above me, falling to the horizon
and give thanks.

If we must, we must. I don’t know
where to go. But may we
hear the sound of root rent
from root soon, may we feel
the good, good tearing
of our very fibers.

Forget investment. Give me a home
I can love, a place I can belong to. Give
me work worth doing. Worth real
enough to work towards. Anything
but this dust and straw.

I want to kiss you in the blue
quiet of a moist field. I want to know
the earth beneath my feet
like I know the dip and stretch
of my own body. I want to know
you, to know the place
where I belong, to know
the love that fuses people
and places as one,
root and soil and soul. Girl,
girl, sweet wife, let us
get out of here while we still can.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002

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