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Greg Nicholl
Along Lines


A shift of perspective.

A sudden traverse across a bridge, cracked,
solder flaking into the river below,
water the color of mulch.

Map open we trace lines along states,
each outline a possibility.

Imagine valleys of oaks, mountains,
roads cleared of ice,
grains of snow swirling above the tarmac.

In the desert plains blister,
weeds collect on a chain-link fence,
permanently suspended.

I read from the map what I already know:
climates divided.

Lines traced tell us nothing more than proximity.

From it I cannot read
all that we can take from this life.

I cannot discern the size of houses,
visits by neighbors, glares and idle chatter,
who has died and how,
the color of skin.

All I know is when we agree on something
I count back with my fingers
and say, there,
that is where I want to live.


(Originally published in Los Angeles Review, 2006)