Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Red Lantern

Twenty-two miles is not a long distance to travel
when you're heading to the mall 
with friends 
on a Friday night.

Twenty-two miles is nothing at Christmastime 
when presents, turkey and homemade eggnog 
are waiting at grandma's, 
who lives way out in the country 
by herself on a farm.

Twenty-two miles is a hop and a skip 
when you're driving to the next town, 
a bigger town than yours, 
to watch the midnight showing of a new film in 3D, 
the one you've been waiting six months to see.

Twenty-two miles rushes by in a blink 
when you're picking up your girlfriend 
who you've not seen in a month;
she's arriving at the airport, 
international terminal, 
Gate 7, 
at noon.

But 22 miles lasts forever 
when a headwind is howling off the Bering Sea, 
and your dogs 
are pulling, pulling, pulling 
you and your sled
along a stark coastline, 
moving ever closer toward a village you can't even see, 
and you're the last one,
the Red Lantern, 
inching along 
on the final leg 
of a thousand-mile trail 
that's been your home for 
13 days, 
22 hours,
36 minutes 
and 8 seconds, 
and all you care about 
is hearing the siren, 
passing safely through No Man's Land,
hugging the arch, 
feeding your dogs, 
and drinking that hot coffee 
your mind has been smelling for at least two days now.

And sleep.

Warm, luxurious sleep.

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