Internal Exile


Although most people I know were condemned
years ago by Judge Necessity
to life in condos near a freeway exit
convenient to their twice-a-day commutes
through traffic jams to jobs that they dislike,
they didn't bury their heads in their hands
and cry "Oh, no!" when sentence was pronounced:
Forty years accounting in Duluth!
or Tenure at Southwest Missouri State!
      Instead, they mumbled, not bad. It could be worse,
when the bailiff, Fate, led them away
to Personnel to fill out payroll forms
and have their smiling ID photos snapped.
And that's what they still mumble every morning
just before their snooze alarms go off
when Fluffy nuzzles them out of their dreams
of making out with movie stars on beaches.
They rise a five a.m. and feed their cats
and drive to work and work and drive back home
and feed their cats and eat and fall asleep
while watching Evening News's fresh disasters–
blown-up bodies littering a desert
fought over for the last three thousand years,
and smashed-to-pieces million-dollar houses
built on islands swept by hurricanes.
It's soothing to watch news about the places
where people literally will die to live
when you live someplace with no attractions–
mountains, coastline, history–like here,
where none aspire to live, though many do.
"A great place to work, with no distractions"
is how my interviewer first described it
nineteen years ago, when he hired me.
And, though he moved the day that he retired
to his dream house in the uplands with a vista,
he wasn't lying–working's better here
and easier than trying to have fun.
Is that the way it is where you're stuck, too?


Richard Cecil, Twenty First Century Blues, Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.