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Thursday, July 13, 2006


An Allegory

by James Penha

Whenever my mother felt she needed
a break from home, hearth, housewifery,
she demanded my father take her to, oh,
San Francisco or San Diego
or Chicago
or to her cousin Densy’s in Toledo
and Dad loudly thrilled to the prospect of a holiday for himself
not to mention a break
for his wife. He and I walked determinedly
down to the Gulf station on the boulevard
for the right map (free for the asking
in those days) and, once returned,
the whole family gathered round the dinner table
to watch Dad blaze the trail with a red china marker
from our town round cities and through mountains
and deserts to nirvana.

On the ensuing Sunday,
from the fat travel section in the paper
we cut out reply coupons
to request brochures from the resorts and attractions
along the road map. Thick envelopes came dropping
in days,
through our front door’s mail slot,
with totem poles and carved mountains,
orange groves and petrified wood,
canyons and chasms and caves
for days
until my brother had a big game coming,
I a little part in a play,
and my mother added up the prices in the pamphlets.

My father marked the destination boldly
atop a manila folder
big enough to hold the road map
and the guides. He filed it
alphabetically in his den desk drawer.

After my father died, I counted eighty-three road maps,
eighty-three untaken trips
fading in their folders in the drawer.
My mother smiled at my recollection of them
and pointed to the dumpster.

James Penha edits The New Verse News.