sunny, chilly, the wind brisk but toothless.
March, as March should do, marches on,
winter grudging every degree of discomfort displaced.
On mornings like this I used to walk the railroad tracks
past factories in the low piercing light
kicking up dust, examining the artifacts left by passing trains —
bottles, bean cans, scattered pages of illegible text,
and the occasional leg bone of a vanished
furry animal, hobbled off or eaten whole.
I was looking for anything new, it didn’t matter what.
There would be sudden neighborhoods,
unfamiliar soil, sometimes a pool hall,
a secondhand store,
or a diner. I would sit and imagine
what it would be to live there, to always order
the same lunch, to indulge in idle
ruminations with the help.
In the long, slow afternoons I would watch
them fill the rows of ketchup bottles
on the counter and the tables.
Always filling, never washing.
It occurred to me that at the bottoms
of those bottles lay the remnants of the
Original Primal Ketchup in its few remaining molecules.
I couldn’t guess its age, much older than me.
We can never escape the past,
it is our stuff, our formless substance.