Travelogue, Notes on Leaving - Chance Parish


the highway.

the color
of my true love's hair.

Steel picks on pale fingers.
Bright strings warring with August’s sun.
I sweated out melodies,

letting them trickle down my forehead,
pool on my lips.
The words tasted of salt.


Look forward, or look back.
These are the options.
Tread softly to the altar.
Pause briefly. Unburden.
Kiss the ground.  Give thanks.
Live with the absence of longing,

or turn and take an inventory
of loss.
Become a pillar
trapped in place.  Isolate
yourself in the year
you will perpetually gaze into.


Is there still another way,
a path not paved with asphodel?


Sitting still staring
past the pulpit
to the charcoal pietà
framing the altar,
we critiqued
the Madonna’s form.

Grotesquely disproportioned.
Somehow delicate,
mimicking El Greco
as much as Michelangelo.

“I wish” you said “there could be music.”
Films had taught us to expect
strings, the blare of horns,
when denouement approached.


We walked from the church along
the straight gray road.
An appalling absence of electric light
made the sky seem a domed expanse,
a cathedral adjacent to the delta.

“Community Pool”
the sign read.
Which meant, of course,
“subscription only, only whites approved.”

I thought you intended murder.
I think it still sometimes.

You knew I feared deep water.

The push took my breath.
I sank straightaway.


Looking up through blue
to a sky of distorted stars

time was a country
I had lost.

In another place I picked up a guitar
and added a line
to the poem of the blues.

I loved a madman in Sallis.  He drowned me in a pool.
I loved a madman in Sallis.  He drowned me in a pool.
I should have known by his eyes,
by the books that he read.
I loved a madman in Sallis.  He drowned me in a pool.


Concrete, sharp with pebbles,
cut into my back.
Hands pushed heavy
on my chest.

I longed, like Homer
and Robert Johnson before me,
to lift the song again.

Instead, I lay flat.
Dazed eyes stared
into your stubble.


I found the road
and in pictures
your hair has turned brown.



*The first stanzas of this piece reference two pieces of Americana.  “Black is the Colour (of My True Love’s Hair)” is a traditional Appalachian folk song.  “Lost Highway” was written, and first recorded, by Leon Payne.



Chance Parish lives in Springfield, MO with his husband John. His work is forthcoming in the Raintown Review.