Driven from the garden of good and evil,
news still reaches me. I’m not the last disappointment
they’ve shown the road to. I invented nostalgia.
That is, I wrote the book on exile and longing
for home. They set me walking, the penance
to pay. My comeuppance? I flipped the script,
kept on wandering, wondering what’s over the hill.
And the next one. Had to see it, wouldn’t take hearsay.
If not innocence, experience. It’s weightless. Isn’t it?
Fellow outcasts pass through here, chew the fat
around my fire, fresh from their fortune reversal.
They’re bewildered, or they have chips
on their shoulders. They spit at mention
of certain names. Their persecutors.
One fails to stifle the impulse to tears,
telling what the garden meant to them.
Me here, the proto-prodigal, thankful
for the balm of the years passed since.
For the distance. Old feuds are hardly shrugs
on my end. Now. Few know and fewer care
what spats or infractions got me cast out.
Those visiting fallers from grace, ex-gardeners
bless the supper table with descriptions
of the orchards that I ran through
in prelapsarian days. I was light
and low to the ground. I teach my guests
to teach themselves to make friends with the road.
Todd Mercer won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Contest for 2015. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer’s recent poetry and fiction appear in: Bartleby Snopes, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, Eunoia Review, Gravel, Kentucky Review, The Lake, Literary Orphans, Main Street Rag anthologies and Misty Mountain Review.