In Alabama

we chewed honeysuckle flowers
and walked the dusty road drinking NeHi
grape soda and kicking katydid husks, singing
‘dipshit’ and ‘motherfucker’ just for the sound in it.

We caught crawdads in a bucket– bright red
like little lobsters already boiled–
but my mom wouldn’t cook them
so we chucked them back into the creek.

I knew then what mimosa meant, learned
bee sting and dog bite riding my stingray bike
back from the ball game. Everyone’s past
is perfect and terrible, filled with pain

remembered, joys remembered and forgotten,
but mine is the only one that’s mine.
That summer my father was gone I rode out
for hours through the sluggish, muggy air.

There was a smell of burning rubber from
the airplane factory past the cotton fields,
and somewhere beyond them the perfect blue
water of Pippen Lake, on the Florida coast,

where we’d gone the summer before, a line
of dolphins always rising and arcing like angels
half a mile off shore. If only you could feel
what I felt then, you wouldn’t have to ask me

why I stare off out of one eye all the time,
why my heart races and my temperature
is one degree higher than normal:
walking train tracks in a sudden thunderstorm,

drops sizzling on the gravel between the rails,
splotches of hot pitch on my feet from the ties,
the hulk of an abandoned boxcar on a side track,
the pop pop of a double-barreled shotgun far away.

(kz 1988)

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