Distance seemed a miracle, far

and away the most dead-end place.

All the small side streets kept me at bay.

The luggage I’d packed lurched

in the trunk, yearned for light.


Brakes caterwauled at train tracks, dog-

leg turns. Out of a bike lane

a wheel spoke glint spoke suddenly,

out of place, cutting me off.

I never stopped for the squirrel,


whose body I never felt flatten under my tires.

My driving foot itched. Kept

courting the gas behind the 10-and-2-handed

student driver, whom I once was,

whose bumper I rode hard. The sky’s


mangled white wreck of clouds and all

the open blue road in between.

I honked at the mirror image

of the driver’s eyes in front of me

stopped at a green light till the ambulance


I didn’t see Dopplered past.

Soon the work zone ended. Up ahead the sign

for the highway. I had all my zippered bags,

Ziploced perishables. Turn signal to the onramp,

then the merging lane, heavy breathing and


it was here, the moment of pressing down

on the pedal, it was only when I

hit the right lane of the Parkway

that the cat I left behind being licked

by the whole sun’s one square tongue on the rug


was never fed. And the boiler room light

left on. The porch door pushed itself ajar

to keep me back, change my heart.

The red apples I may not have packed

respired sadly in their brown paper bag.


On the couch was the mother I didn’t kiss,

there was not enough love in the hug I

garlanded her with, beside the sick father

I never spoon-fed. Behind me,

the blur of ambulance toward some stranger’s


slow leave-taking, the blood-letting

of the student driver’s breathing, the squirrel’s

unclottable life. The apologies I never

splayed in my open palm would have held

nothing, nowhere near enough sorrow.


I was a way’s away from being good.

Destination was final. Distance was coming

fast now. I never gave blood. I wracked my brain

for a blood bank to keep me home,

to leave part of myself here.


Alex Chertok has work published or forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Barrow Street, Bat City Review, 32 Poems, The Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Willow Springs, among others. He was awarded a fellowship to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and has recently completed his MFA degree at Cornell University, where he was a Lecturer.


There's a phenomenon that often overtakes me - social psychology may have a name for it - in which I realize what I've left behind at home only once I've left. Or, in other words, only once I've lost access to something do I then really need it. Why does this happen? I'm sure an enlightened answer will come to me only after I've submitted this Author's Corner note. Oh well. "The going" tries to speak to this human blockage, and the difficulty of leaving home, and the difficulty of being human.



Copyright 2009