Once I was hopeful, buoyant,
brimming with an ascendent optimism,
pierced through with a pining nostalgia
for a glorious past I never lived through.
I walked those familiar, gravid streets,
each fertile with possibility, imagining
a resplendent future awaited just
around the next corner, in the next building.
Once I was illuminated, all lit up,
a glowing firefly in the prairie grass,
now I’m just a busted vending machine
where the faint, flickering light has died inside.
Joseph S. Pete is a Pushcart Prize nominee and Lisagor Award winner who lives outside Chicago and served as an infantryman in Iraq.