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Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Quest Room

(for my observant and intelligent friend, Corwin Watts)

I am here in my Quest Room
You read that correctly
It's not my guest room
It is here where The Black Hills
once surrounded me
where I now keep them deep inside
Here are the fallen sandstone boulders
of my youth near my parent's home
The house still there
but it's no longer home
just like so many houses there
were home and are not now
the warmth I once felt

Here are the Ponderosa Pines
I once sat next to
to peel bits of bark
Sometimes an ant or other bug
would crawl through the grooves
between the segments

There are the pasque flowers
in the spring
don't call them crocus
because that's not what they are
but I remember pale blue
handfuls of them
taken home to Mother
as I rounded the rock
on Hangman's Hill descending
to the small field
on the side where our home
looked west to the rain
crossing the layers
of hills to the south
or the setting of the winter sun
that warmed the basement cement
where I could sit dreaming
of where I might go
or what I might do

It's the home where I managed
to slay the dragons of music
on the peaks of a piano
tossing my fingerings
into the volcanoes of disapproval

I bike down the gravel road
past the dozer cuts that give
this Dinosaur Hill something
about which to complain
That very road almost killed me
as I gassed my father's car
more than the ice would tolerate
to spin a one-eighty
rear wheels just six inches
from locking themselves
over the edge and rolling me
to a severe injury or worse

The schools teachers and students
come into my Quest Room
challenging me to change
a painful past that many
would also experience
with no one to talk to

People in South Dakota
never talked about being queer
especially in a house filled
with conservative politicians
at my parent's summer parties
Here a governor
there a mayor
This is my mother's friend
married to a successful dentist
This is my father's friend
the superintendent of schools
They know everybody
but the Indians who walked up
the road with their children
in the cold of winter
without coats
only to get a five dollar bill
I want to say now
take my coat
Here's one from my mother
a mink
Dad has several
and blankets
take all these blankets
Wrap your children in them
wrap your children in them
wrap your children in them
a five dollar bill is not very warm
when he could have taken them
to a motel
given them clothes
bought them food
called someone anyone
leaving me with the guilt
only a child can feel
staring out the windows
standing on green wool carpet
Invite them in
Don't turn them away with money

They turn and walk away
in my Quest Room
Here's a dragon I can't slay
Here's a dragon that slays me
And with that the bubble bursts
on the Quest Room
I flounder in what's left
of that liquid memory
looking across the room
at what created this
in large letters
large enough to read
large enough to stab
any dream
from over fifty years ago
Many quests and dragons slain
only some of them
still breathe fire and smoke
fire and smoke
and where there's fire
sometimes there isn't warmth

Barry G. Wick

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