Fathom Mag

The Third Way

A Poem

Published on:
October 19, 2020
Read time:
1 min.
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On the corner of Broadway and University,
A café opens its outdoor seating to those without masks.
If you sit outside and sip a cappuccino,
you’ll overhear any number of things you didn’t know before.

The hefty fellow with red ball cap that signals
he believes in a greater world, will tell a stranger
what to think about the protests and riots and looters
who have no respect for institutions and tradition.

A mother of too many to count twitches at his words,
wishing she could muffle him or guard her brood
from different opinions than her own—little ones
more attentive to milk mustaches and mucus-glimmering fingers.

Packed apart by social distancing, the college kids—not kids--
but unaccepting of adult responsibilities—struggle
to apply to the texts in their laps—Federalist Papers
versus The Prince, Richard III’s triumph or King’s dream?

Without ever asking, small towns receive the grace
of not silencing voices that clash. We come to learn
that all want to be good and to love, though we turn
to the far-away exiles, allowing extremes and arming enemies.

In New York one may choose her friends by her favorites
and never converse with the neighbor whose world
seems so opposed to hers. In the ether, we pretend
that only sane people taste as we taste, smell the same rats, cast the same stones.

But we know much more in a town with few roads--
that more than two ways must exist. When two
diverge in a yellow wood, we look for the tertium quid—
that way unseen but not untrodden may be found

by the few of us who know our place
and consecrate our space. And bear with our neighbor
who spouts cringe-worthy notions, but who will
(please be true!) protect our freedom to disagree. 

In a world split between splatters of showers or searing sun,
a prism of color connects cloud to cloud—
the third way made by water and light.
Some call it a promise. Others, a covenant. 

Jessica Hooten Wilson
Jessica Hooten Wilson is the Louise Cowan Scholar in Residence at the University of Dallas. She has published poetry in First ThingsModern Age, and Cave Region Review.

Cover Image by mana5280

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