Mark Allen Jenkins
THE TROUBLE WITH EXPLORERS
The trouble with explorers is they never stop
exploring. At home, a more permanent base camp,
memoirs complete, they gaze fondly
at the horizon through a telescope.
When I take them to the mall, it takes days to prepare,
outfit supplies, hire camels, handlers, plan the best route.
through the food court, stuff ketchup packets
and napkins into jackets. Insulted
by you-are-here maps, several inquire
at the Golden Wok for the location
of the nearest water source, quickly note in detail
the amount of chicken in Kung Pao Chicken.
All agree they’ve eaten worse
in the middle of nowhere
on the way to somewhere.
Beneath a skylight’s sun, one sketches
the plastic palm tree, fingers his mustache
as he finishes, tries to decide
what family it belongs to.
Further along, they surround
the wireless kiosk, unable to listen
to a barrage of new words like wireless, texting,
and no-roaming fees. Some ponder journaling
with a plastic stylus, if readers could follow
their daily progress. The danger of getting lost fades,
like the tattered British Flags they plant
on store clothing racks.
Author’s Comment: I wrote this poem after writing a sequence of poems about Australian explorers in the mid to late nineteenth century. Most of these explorers believed their European upbringing could help them overcome anything and were often hopelessly underprepared for the unforgiving Australian landscape. This poem mocks my project and was influenced by Mary Koncel’s set of poems about babies doing bizarre things, such as working on a car engine, from her collection “You Can Tell the Horse Anything.”
Bio: Originally from Zanesville, Ohio, Mark Allen Jenkins completed an MFA at Bowling Green State University and is currently a PhD student at the University of Texas at Dallas where he serves as Poetry Editor for Reunion: The Dallas Review. His poetry has appeared in Memorious, minnesota review, Muse & Stone, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere.
This poem brought to mind an outing with a group of mentally-challenged people which I visualized as I read. Things hit us all differently, don’t they? I liked it a lot.