Gargoyles, fountains, the patina-caked plaques
of monuments—you’re quit with it.
You’ve seen so much significance you could puke.
Three days alone in the Czech Republic and anyone would be
a shade of lonely that’s still turning.
Noon, you’re already glassed on speed and espresso,
appending blurbs to the digital photos, posed, taken through
the careful direction of strangers.
In them your chin is out, blue eyes squinting
somewhere out-of-frame—maybe toward Prague Castle,
or the Klementinum. You marvel at the effect—
cavalier, so as to appear accidental.
How long since you felt something valid?
How long since you told the truth?
Yesterday a street violinist played Wind Beneath My Wings.
How long did you stand there,
planted in the middle of the Charles Bridge,
chest deflated, perilously near a sob?
That, as much a lie as the persona
you’ve spent years crafting on social networks,
the photos where you’re a half-step from catharsis
in the selfie sipping mulled wine at the Astronomical Clock’s foot,
or pensive, nursing a pint and a book of poems
in the brick-arched tavern.
Updating your newsfeed
as if strangers mistake loneliness for bliss,
see more leaks spring than you have fingers to stopper.
In a few weeks you’ll be home, at it again,
swearing you never wanted to leave,
that strangers are just relatives you’ve forgotten,
that a city is like any other place where
yada yada yada if a thing happens,
it always happens to you.
Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia.