Old Dogs

NO ESCAPE


already
ninety degrees
at half past nine
sweat beading
on my forehead
to stream in rivulets
down the sides
of my flushed face

I had walked
almost three miles
no one yet responding
to my upraised thumb
other than to wave
now and again
either to express regret
good wishes
or abject ridicule
I wasn't sure
which

I had
gotten up
at sunrise
sorted through
my meager possessions
selecting only the ones
I deemed most necessary
and stuffed the collection
into my ratty green seabag
leaving me with
about sixty pounds
of insignificant
material wealth

I put on
my only dress slacks
and a tattered sport jacket
in order to stake some claim
to an appearance
of respectability
hoping to alleviate
the anxieties
of any potential
purveyor of transport

I even
tried a necktie
though loosely fastened
hinting at the possibility
I had maybe just resigned
a well-paying position
to chance the vagaries
of the open road

I closed the door
to my near-empty apartment
less than a week
left on the rent
but there was no question
of staying any longer

circumstances
unemployment
and bad karma
had caught up
with me
and it was time
to flee the city

I knocked
on the door
of a neighbor
who had promised me
a lift
on his way to work
giving me a start
on my journey
to the north

six miles out
breathing heavily
baking in the bright
summer morning's sun
wishing I had left
a few more articles
out of the green albatross
filled with goods
that for me
were already losing
their diminished value

months of sitting
in darkened bars
and drinking establishments
had not proved to be
an ideal training ground
for a physical endeavor
of this relative
magnitude

gangs
of speeding cars
and massive semis
passed quickly
by me

my guise
of respectability
apparently no consolation
for the unkempt hair
and haggard demeanor

what little
hope I had
at the beginning
of this terrible trek
quickly flowed away
with the moisture
from my body

trudging up
another rise
in the arid terrain
tired and thirsty
in the throes of a hangover
faltering occasionally
not even able to turn
and face the traffic
without losing
my balance
now wondering
how much longer
I can keep up
this mobile
pretense

something shiny
on the shoulder
caught my stinging eye

a coin
of some sort
and considering
my impoverished state
definitely worth investigation
no matter the value
although I couldn't
seem to bend down
without falling
under the weight
of such
a cumbersome pack

I removed
the seabag
leaned it against the guardrail
and stooped to seize
the circular object
which I saw
was not legal tender
at all
but merely
a promotional curio

I took a seat
on the railing
to ponder the significance
of its apparent
meaning

on one side
a pair of woman's breasts
bordered with the inscription
HEADS I WIN
and on the reverse
an obviously female behind
surrounded with the epithet
TAILS YOU LOSE
an advertising gimmick
for a familiar strip joint
back on the boulevard
of the city
I had just left

there seemed
no exit
from the immoral urban life
and human depravity
(my own)
that had so consumed
my recent history

the coin represented
a kind of Jacob's ladder
of realization for me
out in this wilderness
of my own
making

I gathered
my belongings
and crossed
to the other side
of the now too-quiet
highway

finally
a southbound vehicle
an older white and rusted pickup
already slowing in response
to my outstretched arm
a good natured cowboy
heading to town
more than willing
to give a lift
to a deranged
derelict

apparently
I would have to deal
with my sordid relationship
to that unfriendly city
on its own terms

not so much
its simmering streets
forbidding buildings
or disillusioned populace
but rather
the perverted perceptions
of metropolitan allegory
residing deep within
my own twisted
and troubled
mind

I couldn't
seem to escape
the city
of me