Traveler by Ann Thornfield-Long


The ticking clock is the song
that metronomes my passage.

I am a time trekker, peripatetic
nomad. Who can say where

I will lodge tomorrow
A cough can condemn

me to the gallows. Sunday afternoons
I am homesick for a place or time

to which I cannot return. Hireath?
A home that never existed except

in dreams of Miltown.
Everything smells of old books.

Memory miscarries the golden years
while Eisenhower tried to break 80

on the green, grandparents napped
and Little Rock roiled.

Starched white curtains
stand out from the window

on the fragrant breeze
of everything will be alright.

I have a yearning worse
than thirst, than peace.

My thoughts finger the handle of a grip.
A ghost traces my face with a touch

that feels like a spider’s net.
My familiars hear me keening
                              in the squeal of rails.

Miltown was one of the first psychotropic drugs used in the United States in the 1950s for “nervous tension.” In the 1970s, it was largely replaced by Valium and other medicines.

Ann Thornfield-Long is a co-author of Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage (2013 Crawford and Smiley), was Editor/Publisher of The Norris Bulletin for six years, has published in Artemis Journal, Riddled with Arrows, Abyss and Apex, Wordgathering, The Avocet, Haiku Journal, Pigeon Parade Quarterly, Silver Blade, Number One, and other journals and anthologies. She has been nominated for Best of the Net, Pushcart, and Rhysling Prizes and won the Patricia Boatner Fiction award for her novel excerpt. She lives in East Tennessee and is a student of American Sign Language.

Editor’s Note: There are allusions to the lyrics of “everything will be alright” by The Killers, as well as to “Everything’s Alright” [Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)]

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