Tell Me

Tell me,

is it not enough that you mottle my life with Southern summer hues

and floral print sheets that give me flashbacks to lives I lived so long ago?

Is it not enough to have good reason and no reason at all

at the same time

in the same sense

to love you?

When we met, I saw her in you

I saw the wave of her upper lip in your smile,

your crossed fingers dancing along the steering wheel

exactly as I saw hers: from the backseat, head bowed out of view.

Tell me,

is it not enough that I did not inherit her sweeping movements

but rather, I dredge the unbearable truth from your mouth

which I see ebb and flow

exactly as I saw hers: from below?

Is it not enough to refuse an obligation of life: to love another’s blood that is your own

and at the same time

in the same sense

still long for it?

The last time I saw her, you were nowhere yet.

I saw a snarl in her upper lip,

her crossed fingers behind her back.

She never thought I would meet you.

And here you are!

Tell me,

is it not enough?

And there she is!

Tell me,

is it not enough?

When I look at you

I see the wave of her upper lip in your smile

and it is enough to have good reason and no reason at all

at the same time

in the same sense

to love you.

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Lemon and Honey

If you ever go missing

or choose to leave us

I will tell our daughter that I am the roots and branches of her family tree

that you were the fruits and blossoms of her family tree

I am everything sturdy, you were everything beautiful

 

I will tell her that every beautiful thing has a season

and not to be mad at you

you were only doing what beautiful things are meant to do

 

I will tell our daughter

about the day I squeezed lemon juice onto her tongue at our kitchen table

and how you drenched your smallest finger in honey to coat her mouth

because, you told me as I laughed,

you did not want her taste buds to grow accustom to bitter things

 

If a woman from your past

ever comes to steal you from us

I will push my palms against her throat

her throat against her spine

her spine against the wall

and I will tell her, “over my dead fucking body”

and I will tell her, “get away from my family”

 

I will grab our daughter from the kitchen table

away from the lemon rind

away from the honey jar

 

I will tell our daughter that every bitter thing has a reason

and not to be mad at her

that woman was only doing what bitter things are meant to do

 

I will tell our daughter

that lemon and honey

are to be tasted together

in the summer season

for no reason at all

Lists

Places I Have Fallen In Love

-Parking garage

-Meadowbrook swimming pool

-Tanner’s basement

-My mother’s house

-My first apartment

-Her apartment

-Tea nook

-Parking lot

-Their apartment

-Laundry room

-Bus stop

-Porch

-Coffee shop

-Her mother’s house

-My third apartment

Cities Where I Have Received Bad News

-Lawrence, KS

-Kansas City, MO

-Kansas City, KS

-Neosho, MO

-New Orleans, LA

-Tallahassee, FL

Streets I Avoid

-New Hampshire

-31st

-Ohio

-6th

-Gateway Court

-9th

-Swartz

-Harrison

-9th

-Wyandotte

-10th

-Broadway

-Grand

-Nall

-143rd

Natural Things That Remind Me

-Sunrise

-Snow clouds

-Tomatoes

-Grass

-Flowers

-Basil

-Lemon

-Tealeaves

-Fire

-Rivers

Things That Have Nothing To Do With Other Things But Still Remind Me

-Church signs

-Iron fences

-Spray paint

-Blind people

-Black dogs

-Glitter

-Strippers

-Pool tables

-Letters

-Books

-Statues

-Cameras

-Playing cards

Things I’ve Said

-I love you

-Marry me

-Forget him

-Please

-I don’t believe you

-I hope

-What if

-I already know

-Don’t be sorry

-It’s my fault

-I’ll be the bad guy

-I’m sorry

-I love you

Things I Say

-I miss you

-How are you

-I’m sorry

-You know how I get

-What happened

-I don’t remember

-Tell me

-Why

-It’s fine

-I miss you

-I’m sorry

Things I’ll Never Say (With the Exception of Now)

-How could you

-Why would you

-But

-What about

-Remember that time

-You have no idea

-Happiness looks like

-I sleep better

-Come back

-What happened to you

Things That Don’t Remind Me

Meth Mouth and Further Decay

What Joe used to know:

-At least two uses for gasoline, acetone and drain cleaner

-How to get away from any cop

-Every road in Joplin (before the tornado hit and stole all the street signs)

-The feeling of his tongue on his front, left tooth

 

What Joe knows:

-Vows don’t really mean “for worse”

-How to roll his own cigarettes when money is tight

-Payless $34.50, non-slip, fake leather shoes slide more on kitchen floors than his old boots do

-Wash, rinse, repeat

 

What Joe wants to know:

-What his children look like now that they’re grown

-How his sister has changed since his mom’s death

-How to spell words he’ll never say in conversation

-The feeling of the sun

It’s an easy drop

to your rock bottom.

A steady fall,

to the place I have come to know as home.

 

Where were you when I walked the seven blocks, liquid blurring every stoplight, in Neosho? And who were you looking for in potholes, in sticky glasses, in empty packs of cigarettes, when I was only three knuckle lengths away (or so your map would tell you)?

 

I have been down this spiral before.

Clawing and spitting at the walls that keep me out,

and you in.

Scoured these roads for your face

-in dirt and snow and root rot-

but found instead,

some pulsing piece of you.

Something that you left behind;

forgot.

 

 

It was there, in the square of that small town.

It was there, in that empty bed.

I was there. 

Space

The space beside me,
is not so much empty,
as heavy and thick,
like July in Tupelo.

If I close my eyes
through Pensacola,
through Mobile,
through Birmingham,
I can almost feel you there.
Your head on my shoulder,
hand on my thigh,
mouth in my mouth at stoplights.

But there is nothing more
than wet heat,
miles of Southern sky
and who we used to be.

Thirteen

Lie still.

Lie low.

 

Take only what you need;

leave the rest to the dogs.

 

In the front yard:

stay calm, remain focused.

Steady your aim.

 

The bond between father and son is measured in even numbers and tolerable volumes.

 

In the backseat:

keep quiet, maintain eye contact.

Brace yourself.

 

Take whatever you want;

leave the rest to the women.

 

Lie still.

Lie low.