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Heading West
By G. Murray Thomas

1.
In 1980, the summer after graduation,
I lingered, unemployed, in my college town.
The future pressed in on me
like the humidity – a new city, a job, real life –
but for now I spent the summer afternoons
on the front porch, shaded, barely,
from the New England heat,
and tried to read Ulysses.

When the language got too dense,
or the day got too hot,
I walked down to the Connecticut River
for a cooling dip.

I told myself I don’t have to
understand the book
just appreciate its prose.
I told myself it made no difference
if I went to New York or California.
I told myself I had plenty of time.

2.

The night I moved west,
I watched Ronald Reagan win the presidency
and the Republicans take over the Senate.
At 1 am I boarded a train for Salt Lake City,
which was all feathered hair and smog.

A month later,
I moved into a new apartment
in Sun Valley, Idaho.
There for the winter, on my way to California.
As I unpacked my boxes,
I listened to the only radio station in town.
The news came over:
John Lennon was dead.

Sun Valley was a ski resort,
a nonstop party surrounded
by a hundred miles of mountains.
Sun Valley was not real life.
I stayed for six years.

PHOTO: The author and his mother in Idaho, 1983.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When people ask me how I ended up in Idaho, I tell them, “I was aiming for Southern California, and I missed.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: G. Murray Thomas has been an active part of the SoCal poetry scene for over 20 years. He has performed throughout L.A. and behond. His most recent book of poetry is My Kidney Just Arrived, published by Tebot Bach in 2011). His previous books are Cows on the Freeway and Paper Shredders, an anthology of surf writing. He has also published five chapbooks, and has been widely published in various literary magazines. Visit him at gmurraythomas.com.