He thought he’d die that summer, the ceiling
fan stuffing old air down his throat. The once-
sweet puppy showed his teeth and chewed
through a two-by-four. The glass resisted
and kept reflecting until it finally gave under
his knuckles. One month without seeing anyone
I couldn’t crush between my fingers. Dog bones,
a Pepsi can, a doll missing its arm. Standing by
the highway and waiting for a wave. Even
a convenient store stop can thrill me. You decide
to start twelve hours of sleeping. When it rings
she grits her teeth. I can’t talk to anyone anymore.
Can’t even breath till seven. Fucking sun’s up
again. Wait until then. Almost autumn. Help.
Mother started sweeping five times
before breakfast, then between meals,
then until she fell asleep still standing.
We ran out of bath water and my hair
stuck up in any position I twisted. We found
dog bones, a Pepsi can, and a baby doll
missing its left arm. I conjure up
a telephone and try to call him through
sheer physical exertion. We keep
artifacts of other people—receipts slipped
from car windows, coffee cups. If you
are bored then that means you have no
inner resources. On highway two I try
to meet every passenger’s eye. A perimeter
of highway with no sidewalk, no shoulder.
Even a convenient store stop can
thrill me. Your kids aren’t big talkers,
are they? Silence gums up when I try.
We are always only watching. Can I help
you? Look at me. Just looking. Help.
Slut. Pussy-whipped. Girls
like red. She’s easy as
pre-algebra. Lice around
her hairline. Watch the baby
while I smoke. Buy
and she’s done for. Notes
about three guys and razor
wire. His class ring rises
and beats her chest. Cigarettes
can help—make a smaller baby,
easier delivery. She shaved
the Gitano labels from all
her Wal-Mart jeans. His class
ring diamond is a purple star
above her eyebrow.
The townschildren have reached
a state of crisis. The directions
on their homework assignments
seem foreign, hieroglyphics spoken
in Russian noises. Even their name blanks baffle.
all hand-eye coordination. Kickball
has become a form
(so the teenagers say, eyerolls
still in order).
Some say it came
from the red pills school dentists
gave to elementary children,
the ones we all chewed
to see where our future
cavities would bloom.
the tapwater's tang
and milky aftertaste. Some,
the communal recorders
they play every year
in the Christmas choir. Do you remember
that sterilized mouthpiece? The taste
like gunmetal? Sometimes I think it might just be genetic.
For example, I once
wore my shirt backwards
for hours until I noticed
in the produce mirror
that my breasts were showing.
It will pass, say
the doctors, their stethoscopes
in their pockets, pictures
of reliable witness. I repeat this prognosis
to my son as he tries to fasten
his sweater buttons, grits
his teeth at the spread jam
lobbed on his toast, as he tries to add
a whole tippy
column of numbers.
I didn’t expect to see you here again
Us? Just visiting. Kicked clay dust.
But what about you? Can’t never get clean
completely. Whitney’s fat and her lip-
stick’s bleeding. You still take peanuts
in your pop? His belt buckle’s the size
of my palm. Jesus changed my heart
when I had my baby. Look—he’s got
Redneck tattooed on his bicep
in Garamond. Run in there and get
them menthols and lottery tickets.
The door squeals open and I smell
Frito pie and air conditioning. For a while
he made good money laying asphalt,
working for the county. We sure do miss
having you and your pretty wife
in our church family. Bodean, leaning on
the rust-furred pump, doesn’t remember
calling me skank in high school. They
were making meth in the trailer house
and it caught on fire—all those babies!
Kelly has three babies, Sharon has two
babies, and, it’s a shame, but little
Julie turned lesbian up in Tulsa.
-all poems gathered from her blog, Poemtasting