spend our childhood picking tobacco in Tennesee. In the morning, while
the parable of the day is still strong, we distinguish one variation
of ourselves from another and come home with hands smelling to high
sleep in coldframes beside the seed during summer. We are not embarrassed
to be bundled dirty in our sleep before harvest—a smorgasbord of gods
humming like cicadas around our dreams.
gods are trapped in lampposts. The gods are trapped in strollers.
The gods are trapped in passing. Let’s be honest, they are trying
to figure out what to love most.
harvest, we escape from the center.
We take baths in the prairie. It is like being enveloped by a warm
animal, a disjointed giving ourselves over, lit like wheat.
the empty fields we begin to prove our own riddles with hard questions.
We yell the enigma of the Sphinx to its cousin the Scarecrow. We hope
it answers us with wine for supper. Instead, Father’s crows start
Dio! Oh Dio! The crows of tobacco are light as laundry lines.
Stomata of days opening as hunters yell Oh Dio! Oh Dio! Somewhere
between what we hope and what we pray, there are hands on clean rifles.
sleeps like a black cow in the middle of the highway at night. Night
is a calendar without knowledge of boxes.
could never join in playing brides on the playground. We could never
pretend to wear white. I’d like to tell you that in Tennessee no one
wears white, but this is not true.
mother has no arms. She watched us wash away in the flood. We tried
to hold onto the water, but were never taught how.
is elephant skin that’s been rained on. When you see the bird
over the river, you can stop. She said. Begin to be honest
with yourself. She said. Sing in the shower. She said
at the bottom of her small dark pond.
naming of things is important. Even at the dinner table. Mother said
so. These are peas pushing around our plate. This is milk grown warm
in its glass. No one ever names this ritual—or how parts of us break
off inside our own skin—no one wants to name the naming—and what else
can be done?