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The Tunnel


ISSUE:  Autumn 2003

Visiting the town where she grew up
she sees they’d erected a new
footbridge over the railroad tracks,

and bricked the old tunnel shut. The tunnel
through which everyday she had walked
to school, through urine and broken glass.

Children routinely smashed the lights
and in the afternoons threw dead birds
at her. The occasional bottle. Was it

her superior sniff that provoked them?
The other way home longer, less
interesting, the tunnel open in her memory and

perhaps those who had taunted her.
Sweet revenge to imagine them supermarket
clerks in that same town, days beginning

with cigarettes, ending with TV.
It reminds her of a certain Twilight
Zone
episode: travelers in a hotel

in nineteenth-century England
return from an outing to new wallpaper,
clerks pretending not to know them.

Skies change, souls don’t, Horace said,
although she hopes it isn’t true.
Maybe she was just lucky to get out,

imagination no system of justice
and transport. Maybe she’s still
there. In a dream she has to choose between

two hands: the first a full set of Tarot
cards decorated with clawed dinosaurs:
Archaeopteryx, Velociraptor, Megaraptor.

The second holds a blue U. S. passport,
green cash tucked into its pages. These could
take her anywhere, and she’s always

been afraid of birds. Salmonellosis, chicken
pox. How did the birds get out
of the tunnel? Vandals ringing up

chickens. Dinosaurs eventually
turned into birds, but she doesn’t
have millions of years.

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