I came to Missouri to write poetry after 20 years
It wasn't my first choice to be a software engineer. I wanted to be something else. Something more romantic. Something that had to be earned. Something that other people told you was true about yourself. Software engineering wasn't that. Software engineering was a fallback plan that became my main plan. There were no guarantees. I didn't know if I was going to be successful in my chosen profession. All I knew was that I didn't want to be poor anymore. And this particular drive, if you've ever had it, can be a pretty powerful motivator. It's important that it doesn't consume you. Doesn't make itself the entirety of your identity. We've all met that guy. He probably works in crypto.
Both sides of my family come from a small town called Ava. It calls itself the "Treasure of the Ozarks". It's not. The town's original name was "Militia Springs". They say it's named after an encampment of Union soldiers, but you never really know. There's a square there that kids used to drive around on Friday nights. Maybe they still do. You can see all the Missouri kids on Instagram. Chevy trucks. Cowboy hats. Football. Families.
I'm only stopping to visit one uncle on my mother's side. I can't do the rest.
Past Missouri, down Hwy 5, you'll hang a left at Gainesville and reach Dawt Mill. I've never been to Dawt Mill, but a college classmate of mine runs a poetry retreat there. He decided to pursue poetry for real. And I just now fucking realized that I forgot to bring his book with me for him to sign. Our mutual poetry professor will also be there. I brought his books with me, but not Lee's. I haven't workshopped anything since 2004. Lee is already texting me about saving some tequila for when I get there.
I'm not sure what I'm expecting. I'm not even sure I expect myself capable of writing anything worth a shit. I mean, I'm hoping for whatever "thing" I used to have to come back, but it could be a fire snuffed out. It could be that writing software was all I was ever good at. Or it could be that there is still magic in the Ozark mountains and that my body will know it and feel it and some spark ignites from it. I think that's my real hope. To reconnect with something I'm afraid I've lost.