New poem up on the new and improved blog. Please check it out!
It started in death and in a way everything does. Around three weeks before my first week of law school, I was a witness to my Aunt Jodie’s will. The somber man in the glasses was the first attorney I met that I hadn’t worked for.
I wondered how many expired dreams were sitting half-drafted in his briefcase. At one point, the corner of a page raised its hand as if to speak, but I imagined it was a groundhog. If the will saw its shadow, then I’d have six more weeks with Jodie, and, if not, then she’d have an early, eternal spring. Early spring sounded better. Early spring sounded temporary; I thought back to summers where I didn’t even notice spring had happened. I pretended death could be this sweet if it wanted to.
Sitting next to Jodie, reminded me of my limited interactions with the landscape of Texas. I looked at her, and she was a field of bluebonnets. My parents used to thrust my sister and I into that light blue sea of blooms that undulated without wind every Easter. I’d sit there, eggs in tow, with a smile dripping like melted candy, while I waited for the camera to click so that I could bolt back to the car away from the bees. I never understood why you can’t see bees in bluebonnet photos until I saw Jodie that summer. Death was a bee lurking around her body, and Jodie had used her hand with fingers soft and encompassing like Texas night to swat at it once before. That time it flew away, and this time it lingered, but, like all the photographs of children frozen in bluebonnets, our eyes will never spot the bee. A desperate hum will brush our cheeks. We may giggle, cry, or run, but we won’t see it coming. I pictured a congregation of old mouths spitting out death like an empty sunflower seed shell onto to the concrete floor of a screened-in porch, while the goodness of life slid down their throats to be digested later. Meanwhile, outside of Dallas in some unnamed heaven, Jodie was standing stark and blue against the highway waiting to welcome the next generation of children (because I’m starting to believe that is what we all are until we die).
On one of my visits, Jodie handed me a bag of frozen rhubarb. Ronnie’s family had come from Nebraska with homegrown rhubarb and he deserved a pie; my granny, I was told, would know the recipe. This is when I learned that death is intuitive like folding pie dough. You add enough flour until it looks right, roll it out thin enough, and bake it until it looks like life’s last sunset—you’ll know it when you see it. My grandmother’s hands had kneaded plenty of dough, but this one wouldn’t stop sticking to her fingers. None of us were ready to let her go. “Add more flour,” my grandmother barked, “and quit taking up so much room in the kitchen.” I forgot that baking was the business of birth, death, and anything we decide to celebrate in-between. I forgot that this pie would be the last one we would bake her. I forgot that this pie wasn’t even for her. I washed my hands, but didn’t change my clothes before we dropped off the little tin pan.
***Please read the rest of this piece at my new blog http://www.insidethecavalcade.com
I’m moving my blog. I needed a cleaner space as I start to put up more of my work and toy with starting an online lit mag. I migrated my current followers to the new blog site, but will probably continue to post simultaneously for a little while longer.
Thanks for reading!
Immortal Andalusia the peafowl digging in the ground soft, round bodies shifting the dirt around “One died last year” when the weather fluctuated forty degrees (I immediately noted at least three barns; broken as they were, but well insulated—just like bodies in the south) the peafowl’s feather is important in Catholicism the aspiring park ranger added something about Krishna all while I flipped through the Flannery O’Connor’s Review anticipating the ghostly croon of the dead bird to accent the names of the contributing writers all soft, round, and digging in their chicken wire cage What was I doing in Milledgeville? touching a dead mink, picking up a fifteen pound weight, and learning about mosquito hawks Flannery wouldn’t have done this she had wise blood Mine was just rolling through thick mud like a cripple within me sauntering and drenched in sweat never to decay like the flesh of a peafowl
Baltimore Set him up Box him Bring him in for the right Bring him in for the right Syncopated grunts Clap Clap Clap We need that Floyd Come on Floyd Last round We NEED that You told ‘em You told ‘em When was the last time you told them? He hit him every time COME ON FLOYD 30 seconds bro He’s trying now He’s gonna get it FLOYD knows boy You ain’t get nothing You ain’t ever got nothing All your work, the whole world knows your name, and you got nothing. 10 10 seconds That’s game. \ Game time. If they fair Hes got the W Doing it the whole fight Last five. Last Five Canelo fight, Any number of nameless fights forgotten. ONLY FIGHT The wait. It’s the most grueling in sports. The evaluation. 67 more punches Pacquiao Was he there? PLAN-- Lost it when the fight started. Little flurries of punches scattered like snow were evaded and piled up in the ring. America sat. (That’s debt That’s debt) 148 punches. NO WAY Crown me CROWN ME HE YELLED IT AT ME I got a bone to pick DON’T CHEAT US Still undefeated. (I swear I heard STILL I RISE) Children screamed, Bets were won, and Tavaris lost his shirt; black jesus-- arms spread in my library (When did his shirt come off?) Hugs round. You with FLOYD? YOU WITH FLOYD Unanimous STILL UNDEFEATED He had moments in the fight I had myself in the pocket Tough competitor, my dad, my dad But Pacquiao too I never wanted to win a fight as bad as this fight Was it worth the wait? When the history book is written world champion Most likely a good party later tonight. Thanks for being here. Wipe off the mat (clean the streets) Tomorrow they’ll say Mayweather didn’t come to fight and Pacquiao wasn’t aggressive enough. The New York Times will ask if boxing is too violent for this day and age. Again. And the rest of the no-name boxers are keeping time with their ropes waiting for the ring to tell us who won.
The Tattletale My mother told me money should be spent, but wisely My father told me money should be saved --unless you need gas, then it is just as expensive to drive on the top half of the tank as it is to drive on the bottom half My uncle told me don’t talk to that boy My sister said talk to that boy --but don’t tell mom and dad My friends said talk to that boy and that other one too, climb this tree, share my wine, and remember that time…. My grandmother yelled she’d clean my mouth out (and she did, my sister too, that saint) My grandfather was silent but he’d hand me a tin can of Copenhagen to pack before his fingers would ruin my work tap, tap, tap, rummage, chew, spit (worm dirt—someday I will join you) My new grandma asked me why she was surrounded by old people in a home for old people and then told me not to forget real music My other grandpa probably asked me how the price of corn was shaping up this quarter and then reminded me that successful careers can be forged by dumb luck My niece told me she’d be right back --to be patient and hold her stuffed animals A drifter told me women don’t look real anymore (I’m still not sure if I was excluded or included in his manifesto) Macon assured me that if I “made it” as an artist they would be my fertile crescent --at least they did it for Otis Redding Atlanta told me to move to California I belong there (not knowing that California is tired of being the jagged coast of longing) Rabun Gap told me that whenever I’m ready to settle down its hills were waiting for me And that man in Rabun called me, born of Midwestern plain coated in rust red dirt, City Girl That boy informed me we were falling for each other and ran before I replied (an old man told me to think before I speak) The universe told me hang tight you are tiny I swallowed you whole before anyone knew you would exist but No One told me where the good luck went and I often think at night it keeps them up too
GORDON I. You picked yourself bald little tufts of grey vibrant patches of green and I could picture sitting down and resting in those patches walking across a volcanic ash bald spot and never noticing the difference just observing the changes in the landscape of your skin as you cling tightly to a bulbous nosed Santa doll in a Tupperware box flapping aimlessly, frantically and then settling in gripping the edges determined to pick at the seams of life wherever you saw them --couches and blinds, goddammuht leaving nothing but shards for the rest of us as you squabble on the perch humming and tapping some unrecognizable rhythm naked in the soul of things II. I imagine five years of peace under the influence of tide, wind, and sand where seasons leaked and screeched forward like a bat curling into winged cocoons and hanging from your bedroom window (and that isn’t how I choose to see you—like the way we pick out a beautiful feature on an ugly face and focus on it until the entire face is transformed; that is how you are) heaven, hell, and the blues vast and whole punctuated by clucks gentle clucks angry clucks a coop of night enveloped by chicken wire the volatility of the sound that binds you escaping and occupying the space that silence once used to stretch its legs where the resounding flap of your wings bounced abstractly like jazz down the sidewalk --concrete and reverie goddammuht dropping like feathers as I drip into the down of you naked in the soul of things III. I saw you in New York City on the shoulder of the bull surrounded by awestruck, swollen feet with the non-tourists barreling through the crowd they were more likely to notice you but they didn’t because the city had taught them that pigeons and tourists were all the same more obstacles in the landscape of their lives petrified trees pliable, sweet, and brittle breaking through the black slush I hear you stayed there you found a woman through a window in the Bronx who left day old bread on her porch you were on your way to Canada when you saw a blush of daffodil yellow light up the brick and you flew that way instead you clung to the railing waiting to see another bloom of that light (you’d grown out of couches, blinds, concrete, and reverie) you heard a plate smash and a cry that joined the sound of the city subtly like the break of dawn into the hands of men like communion wafers saturated with tears that fell onto cornflower blue china a loose yellow ribbon letting her hair fall like curtains over the scene you rested your wings she tied up her hair and swept the dishes she turned the knob on the radio her finches bobbed along stupidly in their cage as your green wings flapped against the window naked in the soul of things the city dropped like a yoyo suspended from a strand of gold dangling from your beak naked and in the soul of Everything as the finches bobbed stupidly along