The moon was a-howlin’ it must be done
and I know it’s best to not play chicken.
I always heeds the advice of the sun.
That fool grabbed me, pinned me down. “Time for fun,”
he said. But I ain’t got time for messin’.
The moon gets to howlin’ if chores ain’t done
just right, so it can wax and wane and stun
the night with its sickle of glycerin.
It always heeds the advice of the sun.
Both them globes stroll through time—they never run.
When the corn and peas are fit for cannin’,
the moon will be howlin’ it must be done.
I pick and pull and hoe until night comes.
I work the dirt until my skin glistens.
Yep, I heeded the advice of the sun.
Its heat was a-tellin’ me to steal his gun—
It weren’t my plan to kill no one, listen,
the moon was a-howlin’ it must be done;
he learnt to heed the advice of the sun.
Her kiss, wet, her lips
like slugs, but
I ever got.
Her legs, thin
as tinker toys,
the wagon wheel joints
could that neck support
her head, a planet
on a straw—
she looked like hunger.
At lunch, the bench
but for where she sat.
Libby, the idiot
of third grade,
never seen on swings
or slides, never jumped
the turning ropes.
as she walked by.
Kids, cold, hard
as marbles, used her
for their blood raw
laughs. Their home-grown
to her like nits.
I earned her kiss
by being soft.
THE SWELLS OF SUMMER
It was a sweaty day—
hurray for sunshine
and drenched bodies.
Beneath the wet white shirt,
every muscle speaks
the gospel, every ounce
of fat sings. The lies
that outerwear screens.
The falsehood of coats,
the lying scarf and hat
are put well away.
On that sweaty day,
that I was gay. Poolside,
fathers, sons, brothers,
paraded hairy chests
and muscles. With a trumpet
in my wet white trunks,
I watched them and wondered
then ducked beneath my shirt
and shorts. I could only sink that day.
It was a sweaty day
when I learned to love
the underneath of things.
Beneath my bed, I hid
my Blue Boy magazines.
Beneath my clothes, I hid
my tumescent summering.
SUMMERS WITH DANNY AND SUSAN
They appeared each June—libation just before I turned to dust,
two little towhead saviors peering over the station wagon dash
like prairie dogs. Now I think I may have made them up, the aqua
days of pools and riding in Mrs. Winterbottom’s mower cart,
through the streets of our new complex, waving like parade grand masters
at the denizens of newborn split-levels and crisp ranch-styles
with seedling yards.
We played among the piles of dirt, weaved between the ribs
of skinless houses despite the taint of rusty nails and splintered wood
that builders leave behind, until we fell agape into a mound of sand.
The grit was strange against my teeth and ringed my lips in stucco.
If only I had thought to leave some trace among the scaffolds that we were
there, tan and ocher like the dancing petroglyphs made by aborigines
who used the very earth to stencil rocks, hardy cliff dwellers
who dared to chew the loam and spit still life on canyon walls.
WHAT LINGERS WHEN LIPS PART
After tongue touches tongue, I stagger
backward from the jolt. A spark,
from two juiced wires brushed together,
lights the dark where cobweb belayed bruts
ache to pop their corks.
I try to sober, but trickle quicker
down the treasure trail,
the shortest passage to your tap.
I binge in the cleft of your cellar,
three sheets from a whiff of your oaky vintage.
Your stout arouses taste buds
flaccid from disuse.
Shivers convulse me
days after a taste of your malt brew.
You are a spirit to be quaffed,
not sipped like snobbish cognac.
When I touch your brim to my lip,
your beard is like a margarita’s salted rim.
A SENSE OF MISPLACE
Rural Kentucky plus gay equals
ache of never feeling planted
when all around you
are rows and rows
of tobacco rooted
so deep it can’t be pulled.
I couldn’t tap
this soil for pabulum
or grip the clods
that others held tight.
I never conjured
the magic of plunging
into this hard clay.
I was the anti-farmer,
the odd non-member,
the alfalfa sprout that flaunted
its clean, blanched root
obscenely in the air.
This poem first appeared in BloodLotus.
WHILE AT FRISCH’S FOR A TUNA MELT
The servers skitter about the tables
while ladies with leaning towers of hair
led by men with wishbone legs
dodder to the salad bar, hang their canes
around their wrist while dishing out some cole slaw.
My waitress tells the table next to me
that she has cancer,
must have a length of her esophagus removed.
Somehow, this leads into a narrative
of how her earlobe is split because her youngest
pulled an earring through it. Now, she uses Crazy Glue
to close the slit and wear her diamond studs.
On her face, I notice acne scars, healed
but always open—like the counter
at this the watering hole
for those of us who gimp
through life, drop a limb
and just reach down, pick it up,
twine and paste ourselves together
to make it to dessert.
This poem first appeared in New Southerner Magazine.