Part of a Wagon Train

Adam Todd

June 28, 2022


Imagining being a pioneer,
part of a wagon train,
with the blue universe overhead,
and thinking for a few minutes as I move that
the notion of a sun god makes much more sense on this westward haul than
the God of my scriptures.

I don’t need a deacon to explain to me what I can feel burning the backs of my hands.
Certainly the sun is indifferent, but it has never asked this poor man for a tithe.
Except, what could a sun god offer that would compete in the slightest with
Heaven the way it is described in Revelation 21?
. . . walls made of jasper and the absence of pain.

But I want to be cautious because maybe if I stick with the sun god
my soul just sticks with my flesh when I die.
So it’s the horror of complete and everlasting paralysis and not seeing or hearing,
but also the blunt, shapeless awareness
that would somehow allow me to feel the other pioneers burying me and shit like that.

At certain times of year I witness seagulls hanging around in this neighborhood,
making a stop on their way to Florida for the sunshine.
Their plumage is like strips of old newspaper.
If you squint just right you can read on a wing about the flight of Charles Lindbergh
or see an Orioles box score from the day you were born.
Observing their orange feet putzing around the dollar store parking lot
gives me the sense that no god at all has inserted itself into Planet Earth’s equation.
But when they eat trash on the beach in Pensacola it isn’t any more appealing.
And the families that watch them from sandy towels understand;
they too are hungry from traveling.

Back to the pioneer part.

Perhaps I could have been Johnny Chapman, buried not too far from here.
A kindly zealot, tailed by a benign wolf, nourished generations
while pacing through the nation alone.
Ignore the dogfennel and zealotry. I’d have been fine with not grafting;
many of the best among us are chance seedlings.

I read recently about these black buzzards that are becoming a nuisance
in my state. They eat live animals.
They haven’t the decency to wait for their prey to die.
You can see them land on a calf or a pig and begin by eating its nose.
And I can imagine me, as a pioneer, being easy pickings for a bold black buzzard,
as I am weak and slow from lack of nourishment and the inescapable heat.
Talons on my scalp, a beak striking my face. Pain. Alarm. Confusion.
Flailing my arms but it has my eyes now. Others in my party are screaming.
My hat is gone, my suspenders mangled, and my linen shirt is being stripped away in an
augury of Hitchcockian horror.
I drop to the ground as my sun god watches me being mugged,
when through the transparent glass I see a beautiful bride awaiting her husband.
And I’ll holler it like Johnny did:
“Here is your primitive Christian!”

Adam Todd is originally from Kentucky. He now lives in Indiana. His work has appeared in (or will appear in) Better Than Starbucks, Door is a Jar, Round Table Literary Journal, El Portal, and The Journal of Undiscovered Poets. Adam is the founder and editor of the literary magazine Genuine Gold.