Choose Your Own Adventure
You know the book—the one you read in secret,
last on the rack at the paperback exchange.
The rattlesnake uncoiling as you thumb
the corner pages warns you're down the wrong path—
you've misread the horoscope, commandeered
the wrong scenario—you thought the stars
were saying "teach," but they meant "learn
to play the saxophone," or "hunt for trash
with petty criminals." Your choice now is to skip
ahead or dabble in the work of it, more and more
a god of thieves as the temperature rises.
Convict or not, come lunch you could snooze
in the shade, or break for the tree-line and the refuge
you know must be written somewhere behind it—
a woodcutter's cottage where you read old papers
and drink milk still warm from the goat.
If the bloodhounds break your wretched sleep,
no matter—open the book to another page, to a day
in your life as a wife gone fat to pad herself
against the Mister's alligator boots,
or work as a miner and spend your last page
trapped, the water rising like a tide of ink.
Open the book again and you are here,
in the spot you started, a hunter unable
to recognize as his own the tracks he follows.
You stand there, the world's best dilettante,
part journeyman and part Quixote, posed
safari-style on a wildebeest crumpled by a blind shot.
Or scratch that and begin once more, in medias res,
as a cowgirl more freckled than her appaloosa pony.
We'd skim the book in every combination
to find why she pauses here, at this desolate crossroads,
facing west to a barn full of shadows.