I have been living in a city for so long

I have been living in a city for so long
I no longer know what is happening
in the world beyond its bustling ambit—
what has happened to the country?
If I follow the interstate out of town I
find it engineered specifically to keep
me from seeing anything—trees line
either side or there are empty rolling hills
but no small towns to look at,
no Mayberrys, no Grover’s Corners.
Where are they all? All the tiny towns
filled with wise locals and the heart of
America and all our values and charm:
do such places still exist?
You couldn’t prove it by me.
Smallburg, America could have been bombed into dust
and me not know a damned thing about it.
Maybe that’s what we did—our country.
Maybe every remaining town is either
a crater or a bedroom community for
rapidly advancing urban mega-sprawl,
and all of it is trained and zoned and called to feed
the hyper-organized municipal machinery.
Maybe Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto
bulldozed every brick so they could grow more
Round-up tolerant wheat and sorghum;
maybe the seeds from Monsanto-sown
fields floated through the air into mouths
into noses into lungs and plants began to grow
in peoples’ chests and Monsanto sued
because the people didn’t pay to use
the seed and the courts found for Monsanto
and Archer Daniels Midland and the poor
people had to stay and stand and yield
and Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland
pick the people like berries and soybeans
and the people go on, continuing to yield—
How would I know any different?
If I close my eyes and scrunch my brain
to the limit of my powers, I cannot conjure that
independent town any more—It’s a mere
false-front for making meaningless movies,
three-quarter size and empty inside.
How would I know any differently?
I have to trust the trees to imagine it for me.
I have to trust that soon enough my vegetable brethren
will rise up against all the evil Monsantos of the world
all the nasty Archer Daniels Douchebags and grab
them by their criminal throats and rend them
over the good ground and feed the gasping earth
with their black blood. Then in a clatter of joy
their limbs slapping against each other in fierce percussion
they will rip their feet from the slaked ground
and they will dance a frenzied, woody tarentella
’til at last, exhausted, they come to a patch of green
near a stream and they will rest and their feet
return to root and birds will sing in their hair
and they will be still. We will come to this place
and we will build a small town centered on this green
which we will call the common, for we at last
are living again on common ground,
and the trees will be normal trees again,
and we will be normal people again
for the first time in a very long while.

—Don Whittington


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