Normal, Illinois

by Richard Spilman

Because home is the one place you cannot escape;
    because it sat in the middle of the county, in the middle
    of the state, in the middle of the country, surrounded

by corn rows like a secondgrade sun; because Sugar
    Creek was a storm ditch you nearly drowned in;
    because Adlai grew up there and everyone voted for Ike;

because Chicago was “up” and St. Louis “down,”
    as if the town were perched halfway up a cliff;
    because you drank whiskey and Coke in a graveyard,

and once in a joyful abandon, after weeks of almosting,
    parked on a berm and like Christmas tore the bright
    wrappings from each other. Then a cop pulled up,

red light circling, hitched his belt and rapped the butt
    of his flash on the hood and, sighing like God
    at your sudden modesty, told you to get the damned

wheels off the road or a truck would give you a real taste
    of Heaven. You angled the car to the edge of the ditch,
    and were entwined before he left, his siren a celebration

of the absurdity of love. You did not look beneath
    the Catholic tartan, nor did she at you as she helped you
    find the way. Your bliss needed a shroud of ignorance,

for this was theft: you two in the dead of night breaking
    into the great mansion to take by stealth, by force

    all that the owner had withheld from you. The moon

a torch painting her face chiaroscuro, every breath eternity,
    the gear shift in your side to remind you love is pain,
    you soughed her name, and the car slid into the ditch.