Farewell Tour

Carrie Shipers | Poetry

I stayed away from Mom’s bedroom
except for sifting paperwork and searching
for her gun. Tracy the bank president
helped me close her accounts. She’d heard
the news on KAAN Country between
the weather and the weekly swap. 
My wrists remembered every curve
of Highway 69, but I couldn’t get
the A/C on, stop tasting hay and hot asphalt. 
I paid cash for Mom’s cremation
and was promised she’d be ready
for my return flight. At Wal-Mart I bought
boxes, tape and beer, more garbage bags
than I had time to fill. Beside the basement
stairs, a John Deere calendar showed August
from five years before. Dad’s coffee cup
sat with assorted keys, spare parts no one
would need. Two miles south, the town
I’d grown up in had mostly disappeared
except for the grain mill, a handful
of buildings that wrecked my perspective. 
Gene’s house was hard to find despite
its bright tin roof. He wept holding Mom’s
collar brass, the purple-handled scissors
she’d liked best. My lunches came from
the café that had been Maggie’s Memories. 
First a tenderloin that hung over its bun,
then giant iceberg salads topped with cheese
and fried chicken. In Gallatin, I passed
the mural for Elbert’s, where Dad had gotten
boots and Big Smith overalls. Across
the courthouse square, the lawyer’s lobby
offered free tomatoes. The pink sheets
on my teenage bed kept working themselves
loose. I drove to the airport through river-
bottom fog that wiped out my rearview. 
By the time it cleared, the house was sold
and I realized I’d made my last trip home.