Yesterday I was in a town where rumors were rampant
And false, like the one about eternal life
Only within the borders of the municipality.
I can’t remember the name of the town.
What’s wrong with me!? Alzheimer’s!? I said. He said,

“Get calm and don’t worry. Do not fear, for
It’s a region of the state
Where the towns have no names.
I’ve been there. The inhabitants
Don’t go out of their towns much
So they don’t need to know names of other towns.
Sometimes they’ll need a different beer, a case,
So a friend will gesture with one arm that-a-way
And the beer shopper will go out on the road and make the first turn
To the other town accurately. The gesture
Is at a certain place in the air between the two people
And the info about which town is in the gesture.
If the supplicant needed hydrogen peroxide, brand name,
Not generic and the wise friend knew which town
(It was the fourth turn to choose on the road)
He’d swing his same arm somewhat differently and use a finger too.”

Whew, I said. You mention both beer and peroxide,
So is there a lot of hurt there?

“There is a decent amount of hurt, maybe more.
By the way, when were you there?” (he said)

Yesterday. I told you! I drove there and back in one day.

He asked, “On the 475 or the 82? And did they mention they embed
Those little fish hooks for perch in their hardwood floors?”

Leave me alone! Don’t try to frighten me, and don’t follow me, I want
To go back there and live forever!

Arthur Vogelsang was born in Baltimore and has lived there and in New York City, Iowa City, Wichita, Philadelphia, Paris, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, places he has been employed variously as a teacher and as an editor. He appears frequently in anthologies such as The Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize, and is the recipient of the Juniper Prize, a California Arts Council fellowship, and three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in poetry.
*Photo courtesy of Doug Kerr.
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