Each Cracker-Barrel restaurant is exactly the same.
The antique artifacts are reproductions
but the food is uniformly bona fide.
It is over 90 degrees outside
it could be Arizona
the sun is scorching along the interstate
branding Ohio with smoldering Nasca lines.
Shopping Malls look like pueblos
baking in the heat.
The waitress is Native American,
she looks Mexican to me
but says she is Navaho.
It is 3pm and I order breakfast.
The Red Indian
says she was born in Florida.
Disney has a world there
that is bona fide-
it has to be manufactured
and imitated exactly the same everywhere
Each place has its own tradition of artifacts
that are not fake but openly ersatz.
Like wax fruit they proliferate
until we cannot tell which is more real than real.
This simulation arrives from a cold-blooded world
that is painted red and yellow like the sun.
In that world
a mother of five must work a 12-hour shift
in a folksy counterfeit place like Cracker-Barrel
just to survive its realness.
A ubiquitous symbolism reassures us
that everywhere is a home from home
while the past is exploited by a fake nostalgia.
Some still cling to an actual tradition-
a piece of textured reality woven
so carefully that it cannot be duplicated,
something as real as a Navaho blanket perhaps
or as enduring as the fierce reality of the sun
as it melts one bona fide object into another
outside a restaurant on an interstate
to nowhere special.
(C) Eric Ashford August 07