Jessie Lynn McMains
May 19 · 3 min read

Are You Leaving for the Country?

It came on a tape from a faraway friend.

Are you leaving for the country?

A question. A message. An imperative. Over and over, imploring. Pleading.

You say the city brings you down.

It seemed we were always leaving.

Leave the iron cloud behind and feel the circus moving on.

All our city pals said: Where you gals runnin’ off to? Elsewhere, nowhere, anywhere but here. Anywhere but the city with its steel and gray, with its poverty and grind-yer-bones-to-dust.

I mean, sorrow. Dreams shattered. Smash, smash, throwing bottles from rooftops, throwing rocks at commuter trains.

Are you leaving for the country?

We loaded my rattletrap car with typewriters and guitars, secondhand clothes, dirty old man boots. We chopped our hair off and done r-u-n-n o-f-t.We traded the City That Never Stops Fucking You Over and its chatter clatter for the whoosh of tires on highway blacktop and the buzzing plaint of the redwing blackbirds in the roadside reeds.

I know a little country town.

Two little country towns.

In the lakeshore town near the north woods, we were fortune tellers. We befriended living tarot cards, smuggled rum into midnight graveyards. The boys at the dive bars got us stoned after hours, and we became coyotes, we became hawks. We bounded along the bluffs and swooped high over the glowing pines.

In the corn-fed town in the heart of the Prayer Furnace, we were cowboys. The air smelled like charcoal and the hummingbirds tasted like gasoline. We drove in circles around the man-made lake, trailed a cloud of gravel dust behind us. Spent our days playing pool and crooning along with Patsy Cline.

Are you leaving for the country?

Let’s call this a postcard sent across years and miles. Wish you were here, darlin’, wish I were there. There in that place where we’re still young. That time before the circus left us behind, that time before you decided I was someone you’d rather forget.

Yes, let’s call this a postcard. A shard of a dream. A never-ending homage to the loss I’m always writing around, about. A memoir.

Let me tell you what I remember.

I remember you clacking away on that typewriter while I strummed the blues on an out-of-tune guitar.

I remember the high and fine whine of crickets and cicadas. The eerie screech of bats in the northern dusk. And that prairie town where the tornado sirens wailed five times a day. Just in case.

I remember sipping tallboys of cheap beer on front porches. I remember country boys we bedded down with. Country night skies so black, so lousy with stars, they were almost gaudy. Skies that looked like someone had thrown blue-gold glitter on a black velvet canvas and sold it at a yard sale where we bought it with our last fifty cents.

And I remember that song we played so often the tape warped in that precise spot. I remember Karen Dalton’s sweet threadbare voice, singing.

Do you feel like something’s not real?

Let the spirit move you again.

[written in summer 2017, previously unpublished]

Jessie Lynn McMains

Written by

poet, writer, zinester / owner of Bone & Ink Press / 2015–17 Poet Laureate of Racine, WI (more at recklesschants.net)

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