Traveling West

by Kimberly Martz

As soon as I left, I wanted to arrive. As soon as I arrived, I wanted to leave.


The constant lure of home is a stone

                       you might find
          anywhere, a shell

you pry from the sand              again and again.

          Strata of memory –
                       white dashes,
                       a yellow stripe –

          keep us fixed
                       to the center of the road.


I have no way of knowing
          if the pictures are true:
                       if, say,

          it’s shadow that bends their eyes
                       to sorrow, merely a matter
                       of taking them down
                       from the wall.

Don’t we all hang ourselves against
          the beveled edge of what history
                        we’ll admit to sharing?

It’s why I spent hours tucked inside
          the slats of a viewfinder, why
                       for years you were two figures,
                       slightly blurred.


At each border we stop, photograph
welcome signs,
          press our palms to the air

                       as though we might cull from each state
its essence: steel-gray Mississippi twilight,
          distended blue belly of Texas, furrowed
          brow of the Pacific: each snap
          of the lens a piece of the map

          we follow. We learn how the body, left
sitting too long, aches for what’s left behind, refuses
                       to give up its backward glance in the mirror,

                       certain there’s something missing.


In the end the map
          is not the territory. We drift
                       from turn-off
                     to turn-off, admit

we’re glad to be lost – shuffling
          between the clear precision
                     of the odometer and the ragged pull
                     of the tide, each wave

a dissipating gesture. Caught in the slow motion
          of arrivals, the proximity
                     of departure, we struggle inland
                     like the man in the kayak, who

despite the drift and pull of the tide,
          keeps making for what he spies
                     in the distance, the line, the horizon
                     that marks where he begins.

Kimberly Martz received her B.A. in English from Auburn University, where she received an Academy of American Poets Prize. Currently, she is working on her M.F.A. at the University of Oregon. She has had poems published in Poet Lore, The Southern Poetry Review, and Urban Spaghetti.

Kimberly Martz was nominated for Poets Under 30 by Natasha Trethewey.