Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: J.K. Durick


I’ve never been on a desert, you know the kind,
But I can picture me out in it. The sand as far as
As I can see, the intense sun, some wind swirling
About the sand, and there I am walking along
Alone, trying to cover as much of my skin, since
I know what the sun can do, my head covered,
My arms too. I would be staggering a bit by then,
Heat does that to me, even this dry heat away
From the humid heat I’m used to. I would start
To see mirages, like they do in all those movies
I’ve seen, at first just water, as if there were a pond
Out here in the middle of nowhere, then an oasis
With shade and promises of coolness away from
This mess I find myself in. You probably know all
The details of this tale, but picture yourself out
There too. We could meet up, stagger along and
Swap hallucinations, Joe’s pond over there and
Over there a golf course looking for players. We
Could go on like this for a time. Remember that
I said I’ve never been on a desert, so I’m not sure
How long I’d last or how long you would for that
Matter, but when we get back, we can clear sand
From our shoes, get our tattered clothes changed,
Sit back, turn up the AC, pour a drink or two and
Then tell tales of our own about being out there
In the midst of all that we could imagine.



The flagger stands out there with his sign
Stop on one side, go slow on the other.
It’s hot and he’s not dressed for it, as if
There were a dress code for this, long
Pants, boots, and this orange vest. It’s
Hot and his shift fits the job at hand, this
Bit of road work. His hat and sunglasses
Help a bit, but the few, almost no, cars
Make the heat seem worse and time pass
Very slowly. He thinks of the TV ad that
First brought him to this – they said career,
Talked about a good starting salary and even
A sign-on bonus. He has to remind himself
Sometimes that they pay him to do this –
Hold up this stupid sign to hold up some
Sleepy drivers on their way to regular jobs
Or on their way home. Today is hard, in
The low nineties, high humidity, and so few
Cars that he’s sure that if walked away nothing
Would happen, the road work would go on
And the cars could stumble their way along.
He pictures himself at the beach or sitting in
The shallow end of the town pool, splashing
Away, without this sign, stop, go slow, nothing
To stop them or make them slow down, just him
A flagger without a flag. It’s a nice dream but
He recalls – no one will pay you to do that and
They pay him to do this.



What do you say when the woman
Cutting your hair asks, “so what are
You up to today?” It’s part her job,
But it always seems embarrassing
When my answer is “this” and say
Nothing more, because there isn’t
Anything else to mention. If not for
This haircut my day would be more
Of the same, bits and pieces of things
I piece together trying to make nothing
Seem like something: reading, certain
TV shows I try not to miss, sitting at
My laptop pretending that my mail is
Way more important than it is, and my
Nap, an institution in its own right.
I climb into the barber chair like I have
Always done it, getting ready for a few
Pleasantries and then she asks me
What seems like an existential question
Not quite “what is the meaning of life?”
But very close – who has a mere haircut
Be the full meaning of his day? There
I am, a victim of my own choices, answering
A woman who looks tired from her day’s
Work, work that probably supports her and
The small child whose picture is pressed in
The corner of the mirror we both are looking into.


J. K. Durick is a retired writing teacher and online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Literary Yard, Black Coffee Review, Literary Heist, Synchronized Chaos, Madswirl, Journal of Expressive Writing, and Highland Park Poetry.

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