Art in Search of America by L. Shapley Bassen

Years after my young love left me, I knew I could no longer
live if I did not go in search of him.  It was hard to leave
home with no hope of ever having him for my own.  Rumors
in the north sent me south to seek for him on the beaches
of the Mexican Gulf.  From Florida to Louisiana, I followed
the unmoving stars above us, both and all. The Mississippi
was yellow and slow.  Oaks there wore rags of Spanish moss.
Whispers of his passage sent me west where hot desert
convulsed into mountains.  I missed him on a mountaintop
in the Rockies, but his footprints were unmistakable
in the snow.  When I came upon the Pacific, I was nearly
seduced by its windgnarled palisades.
                                                               Had I come this far
on the memory of a youth, his arms hard as awe, eager
for my kisses, but shy of congress?  Oregon was far away,
its rocks and ways oriental to the East Coast eye, and
my love had long before passed by.  Columbia was a rapid
river and mighty.  Clowns and acrobats rode its banks
on donkeys that brayed with delight.  In a city in Minnesota,
I was sure to see him again.  But I was too late and he
was gone.  In the land of ten thousand lakes, on every island
I found immigrants who had come for political asylum.
In their native lands they’d been imprisoned for activities
against their governments.  Some had even arrived as ghosts.
In the Minnesotan woods they shouted their blasphemies into
the deaf forests and yes, they recognized me from my
photographs.  Chicago and St. Louis were urban centers
where loud music came from portable stereos and I was
mistaken for the law.  Was my hope of him I loved so,
unfounded, I wondered as I stumbled by an empty playground.
A fisherman gave me the dappled portrait of a rainbow
trout he’d caught to eat.  Faces and voices like his
kept me going.  One night I slept in a field in Gettysburg,
dreaming of wars past, present, and future. 
                                                                      In the dream,
I saw the siloes of Iowa change into those that hold most
terrible missiles.  I saw my hands with others’ on a
barbed wire fence, but I couldn’t tell which side we were
on.  I saw those siloes as the future site of wreathlaying
and speechgiving, America’s concentration camps…
…Awoke, startled and shaking, ashamed, and always sad
not to have dreamed of my lost love.  A Vermont friend
I hadn’t seen for years, whose burned-down house had been
rebuilt, said my love had visited without speaking of me.
I returned home, sore and unsure of welcome.  My son
was playing the piano as one daughter sang and the other
danced.  I am not emptyhanded though emptyhearted.
Before I sleep I tell myself, I may yet dream once more…
If he loved me truly even once, he may come to me again.

L. Shapley Bassen shared the following biographical tidbits with us: "2011 Finalist for Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award, is Fiction Editor for http://www. prickof (Poetry & Fiction) reviewer for Horse Less Press, Small Beer Press, http://the, Drexel U’s http://www.,, http://www. bigwonderful, Melusine, New Pages, Galatea Resurrects. The Literary Life blogger http://www. sobriquet Over two decades has been published/prize-winning (poetry/fiction) in many lit magazines and zines (Kenyon Review, American Scholar, Minnetonka, Persimmontree, etc.). Reader for http://www.; 2009 winner of the Atlantic Pacific Press Drama Prize. (Audio excerpt at , June ’11) Prizewinning, produced, published playwright (Samuel French , ATA in NYC, OH, NC), and commissioned co-author of a WWII memoir by the Scottish bride of Baron Kawasaki. (Audio 2 poems: View/15_3/poems/bassen.html)". 

Bay Laurel  /  Volume 2, Issue 1  /  Spring 2013