Along a Road
by Christopher Woods
Maybe I find it along a road. Abandoned, with a skin of dust. I bend down to get a better look. Wonder how long it’s been there, if time and the elements have brittled it. The desire to touch it is intense. Nothing else, I imagine, will feel quite the same way this does.
Quickly, then, like a thief, I grab hold of it. Discover it is still warm. Still feeling someone else’s touch. Puzzling, how such a thing could be let go, surrendered, of no importance to anyone. Forsaken on a road in harsh sunlight.
That night, or one soon after, I decide to go to work I make use of it. I handle it like I know how, as if this were some knowledge I already possessed.
And I discover something. The thing itself is leading me on. Page after page, is what I mean. On a poet’s road. Through the night, into the dawn. Thought after darting thought.
Not questioning, I follow. I work like any deaf star, aware of falling but not the sound of the descent. Or even the reason for it. I labor with an odd kind of fever. But I finish a poem, and then another. Night after night after finding this thing along the road.
Before or after this, I can’t be sure, something else comes to mind. That these poems must belong not to me but to someone else. Poems that, by accident or worse, someone else was unable to write. It bothers me, this strange kind of borrowing. But for the moment, before or after, I do nothing about it.
Then, one morning this way or that, I find myself walking. Out on that same road again. I stop in the very same place where I discovered it. I lay the thing down in the dust, just as I had come across it. I take care to wipe away any scents or markings I imagine I have left on it. But I have been careful, even respectful, I know. No harm is done.
Before I turn to go, I say some small, random things. Not a prayer, you understand, but silent words with the same curious zeal. I stand up to go. I turn away. I leave it there, along that road in the harsh sunlight. I don’t look back.
Whoever comes along next will want it this way, I know. To discover it for themselves, just as I did. Dust clinging to it. The overall sensation of this thing being left, handed down. To them. It will be their blessing then. Their problem.
No reason why this shouldn’t continue. On and on, until the true owner comes to reclaim the thing. I imagine this sometimes. How he will hold it to his ear. How she will listen for the sounds of all the places it has been. How they will know us all by our smell.
By then it will no longer be my concern, where it goes, with whom, for how long or short a time. All I know, all I have to go on, is how I felt when I put it down in the dust. Dead and still warm at the same time. Walking away from it, the film of it all, I mean. Sun blazing, dust clouds blinding my every step.
About the Author: Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Chappell Hill, Texas. His published works include a prose collection, UNDER A RIVERBED SKY, and a book of stage monologues for actors, HEART SPEAK. He has completed a darkly comedic novel, HEARTS IN THE DARK, about a sociopathic radio talk-show host.