Moral Compass

by Hannah Butcher

i.                    North

The trees are orange and my lungs fill
with the amber air of your childhood:
I can feel those
fiery tingles
of sticks, stones,
of Nature coronating boyishness—
of you pressing
your toes against boulders and
declaring yourself King
of each leafy hue.

There is a two-lane street wedged
between those forests now,
and we can hear the police sirens wailing
in Hazleton—
your voice
strains and claims “the neighborhood wasn’t always this rough”
as you hold our hands
on a crumbling sidewalk.
Like me, you can see
the air turned pale here.
ii.                  East

The sun wobbles in the sky like an egg
and Korea should have given you a reason to enjoy the yolk.
If you had only allowed yourself to swallow new rays, yellow lands—
if you had only let your stomach absorb
the sun instead of tanks and machine guns—
you would have been content.
iii.                West
You held a baby against your chest but she
settled in your arms like a sinking anchor;
Seattle swirled like a sinister sonogram
and it made your heart heave.
The rainy season is not a season—
no, it is a fortified feeling—
and diving into warmer waters was
a justifiable act of treason.

iv.                South

Florida is barbed and wired and empty.
I cannot stand its grey suffocation of
humidity, but
the North is crumbling, the East is poisoned, the West
is weathered.
Your compass is inconsistent, the needle a vessel of vagrancy,
so I’m
setting my compass down
and following the path of memories;

I’m leaving

for the North.

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