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poetry Altoona to Anywhere

Pay attention to your DNA. The idea that you can't go home again assumes a different aspect in California poet Rebecca Foust's rendition: "Kansas one day will turn out to be Oz/and Oz Kansas."


Altoona to Anywhere
By Rebecca Foust

Go ahead, aspire to transcend
your hardscrabble roots, bootstrap
the life you dream on,
escape the small-minded tyranny
of your small-minded Midwestern
coalmining town. 

But when you’ve left it behind, you
may find it still there, in your dreams,
your syntax, the smell of your hair,
its real smell, under the shampoo.
Beware DNA; it will out or be outed,
and you’ll find yourself back
where you started, back home,
unable to refute the logic of blood and bone
you’ll slip, and pick up Velveeta
instead of brie.  It’s inexorable.
Kansas one day will turn out to be Oz
and Oz Kansas,

with the same back porch weeping,
the same husbands sleeping around,
addiction, cancer, babies born wrong;
the same siren nights pierced
with stars seeping light, all that
gorgeous, pitiless song.

[first published in Margie, nominated for a 2008 Pushcart Prize.)

Rebecca Foust is the recipient of fellowships from The Frost Place, the MacDowell Colony, and Sewanee Writers' Conference and the winner of the 2014 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Award. Her third book, Paradise Drive, won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry and was reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Review of Books, the Hudson Review, Rumpus, and elsewhere.