We shouldn’t raise mixed babies
in the South, Kay says as I drive up the crest
of another hill on our way into Kentucky.
The South, where humidity leaves
a sweat mustache, where a truck
with a Confederate flag painted
on the back windshield skitters in front
of us. In its bed, avoiding our eyes,
a boy with blond hair
split down the middle like a Bible
left open to the Book of Psalms.
His shirtless, sun-licked skin drapes,
a thin coat for his bones, his clavicles sharp.
I want to know who’s driving this raggedy truck.
I want the boy to look at us. I want
to spray paint a black fist over that flag.
I want the truck to find its way
into the ravine. I want to—
Stepping on the gas, I pass the truck,
Kay and I turn our heads. The boy smiles
and waves. The man driving doesn’t
turn his head, keeps his eyes on the road. Kay
turns red as she draws her fingers
into fists. I stare at the whites of her eyes.
When the junkies my father sold crack to got
too close to me, he told them to back up
six dicks’ lengths. This is the man who when I was
seven caught me under the bed crying and said:
Save those tears. You’ll need them later.
The man who told me he smoked crack
because he liked it, the man sitting on his couch
now watching the History Channel, scratching
the nub beneath his knee where his leg used to be,
gumming plums, his false teeth
soaking in vinegar on the table. I’m sitting
across the room trying to conjure each version
he’s shown of himself, trying to lie
in water warm enough
to soak away the switch he hit me with.
To help me summon love for the man
who just asked me if he can borrow 200 dollars,
the man who once told me: Wish
in one hand, then shit in the other,
and see which one fills up the quickest.
Little Fires Left by Travelers
The smoldering stops
me. I see my father in knee-deep
Wet white sticks
to the blade. In Grandpa’s snowsuit
dad is blue flame. Come
summer he’ll be nude
under his overalls, yes, no
drawers, letting it hang and swang,
straight raw. Newport shaking
its red cherry. Smoke trailing
something kind of like
the sparklers I used to write
my name with
on the Fourth
of July, something not unlike
lightning bugs fighting night
with the shine of their asses.
Dad’s shotgun bucking:
all strobe and flash.
Can I get
a James Brown scream? Father’s
legless, not Godless, charms the Lord
with his tongue, reads the red
words of Christ when I go.