“Best Of Poetry”: Lucky
to be standing under August overcast—
to be staring out past row after row
of boneyard markers in that broken, country
necropolis. Listen to: the sound of my father’s feet
crunching gravel as we walked through the fence—
the one that wound around the potter’s field.
When I found my monument, I searched the surface
for a fragment of my reflection that made sense. I traced
every silk-string fracture in the windshield’s
shattered galaxy—sole creation of my braincase.
The old man passed me a cigarette,
but let me set it on fire all on my own.
With the free hand, my fingers read
a zigzag account across my forehead; sewn
in black braille. I unstitched the thread,
and unzipped the body bag I had on layaway.
I didn’t understand how so many dead leaves
could find their way into the front seat.
Before my eyes slid under the damp shade
of each lid, I looked over in time to consider
an overturned tire, filled with parasitic
rain water—a snake turning laps inside.
There is a different story in the darkness
behind burgundy curtains. Where the velvet
undertow takes me, I can see a girl—feel lips
waking me like one wakes a baby. She’ll get used
to the grotesque idea of me being the one
between the two who makes the bruises.
She pictured: a clandestine place where the sun
comes crawling over her shoulder at dawn—a place
where the current flowing through her terrace window
breaths life into sheer fabric—white drapes lifting in slow
motion as they drift above her face, always
& forever. In truth, morning was no more
than a dim transition from night to
gauzy light—a murky setting on the outskirts
where phantom sheets blanket the fitful sleep
of field mice, and windmills haven’t worked
for ages. Drowsy mourning doves, perched
along barbed wire were frightened into flight
by the thunder of dual exhaust under my Camaro.
With a wheel in my fist, I tore down a narrow
back road—the demonic engine of my big car screaming
a hymn while we cut a wake through tides
of fog sweeping over the cornstalk-lined countryside.
As I chased the gray wail of air raid sirens,
a black mansion tuned into view—
the dwelling silhouetted against
an empty, panoramic movie screen.
I discovered her waiting in the shadow
of her basement confessional
where she invites me inside and whispers,
Show me black boots laced with straightjacket twine;
skeleton keys etched with cryptic designs.
Three years later I will find a picture
of my little brother and I as children, playing
barefoot next to a ‘55 Chevy—the once ferocious
machine cries rusty tears as she tries to explain
(in vain) why she was abandoned. The photo shows us
in grass-stained clothes—our sunburned flesh & bloody
knees begging for the sting of tetanus. Both of us
appear too tough to smile—or maybe we just weren’t ready.
I promise, I will not tear this one up.