Hometown Waiting For You

by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates

All these decades we’ve been waiting here for you. Welcome!
You do look lonely.
No one knows you the way we know you.
And you know us.

Did you actually (once) tell yourself—I am better than this?
One day actually (once) tell yourself—I deserve better than this?

Fact is,you couldn’t escape us.
And we have been waiting for you. Welcome home!
Boasting how a scholarship bore you away
like a chariot of the gods except
where you are born, your soul remains.

We all die young here.
Not one of us outlived young here.
Check out obituaries
in the Lockport Union Sun & Journal.
Car crash,
Gunshot, fire.
Cancers of breast,
ovaries, lung,
colon. Heart
attack, cirrhosis
of liver.
Assault, battery.
Stroke! And—
did I say over-
dose? Car

Filling up the cemeteries here.
Plastic trash here.
Unbiodegradable Styrofoam here.
Three-quarters of your seventh-
grade class now
in urns, ash and what remains
in red MAGA hats.

Those flashy cars
you’d have given your soul
to ride in,
just once, now
rusting hulks
in tall grass.
Those eyes you’d
wished might crawl
upon you like ants,
in graveyards
of broken glass.

Atwater Park where
you’d wept
in obscure shame
and now whatever
his name who’d trampled
your heart, he’s

Proud as hell
of you though
(we admit)
never read a
goddamn word
you’ve written.

We never forgave you. We hate winners.

Still, it’s not too late.
Did I say overdose?
Why otherwise are you here?

Last updated September 26, 2022