lancaster county, familial birthplace, your thunderstorms lend me the peace of mind to continue.
when i was younger, and wishing to be undone, i blamed myself
for not loving god enough. i said i was rotten, and didnt know why.
my eyes only knew how to glare
because i was scared of smiling, or of not deserving to, or
of letting go of that hurt, or of losing my identity if i did.
im still scared of dying. that didnt change.
and one day, after letting myself stop pretending
to be godly, after letting myself love being rotten, just a little,
you became a monument to learning the word hate.
where would i be without your shame and your conditional love?
i had no idea what passive aggression meant
until you had a reason to teach me. you remind me how to glare,
and how to be undeserving, and thats a kind of rotten too.
you carry churches on your back
like god is my fault, and sometimes i believe you.
it is as if you have come from the past and youre upset the world is leaving you behind,
and thats my fault too.
you are not a kind county, a home, or gentle despite the rolling fields,
neither a place for outsiders nor one to give up a warm body without a fight.
you are as lonely as a postapocalyptic movie's deserts,
and your cities beg to be left empty
and standing and dirty just so theyd fit so perfectly at the end of the world.
these cities are paved with bricks and paint and god.
you arrive bearing washed out, low-contrast hues of green
and undersaturated brown and every photo ive taken
looks overexposed. i have marveled at your night sounds, at
the tar lines clacking
under the tires on the highway, and yet
youve never been beautiful.
the closest thing to beautiful is the full moon, orange with pollution, rising over
the lakes dug out of the prairie and filled then with rocks and fish and water.
youre the stadium that becomes a city every weekend, youre lincoln,
or youre the storms in the night that put hail the size of my fist through the windows.
you are a 754-block coping exercise.
just as i let myself love being a christian's rotten shame, just a little,
you are as oppressively godly as a rural town with 192 churches on a sunday.
you are not made of tomorrows, or of opportunity, but
you are definitely just green enough to think so.
how frightening you are too, where i am scared
of being gay but losing myself in the closet, and afraid of that too.
oh, old cheney road, you are the apothecary's witness
and a false sense of safety.
it could only be the echinaceae, but laying in the ditch on the side of the road is halfway beautiful.
without you i would have grown up more slowly,
and learned to love myself a little quicker.
with you i am nothing but homesick.
this is why, lancaster county, you are made of towns of empty architecture
and lonely streets, where only the animals and the crooked trees are content
this is why you refuse to progress, why you cling
to old, tired bigotry hastily rebranded as belief like an beloved, frayed blanket
clutched protectively in a fussy toddler's hands.
i have praised many things, but for me you are more unloveable than you told me i was.
to my eyes, you are a thing waiting to die.