Home from Cayman Brac
into the smell of Cinnabon and histamines
with an Havana-effect headache,
we queued for chewing gum at the Atlanta airport newsstand,
half bouquiniste, half country gourmet
where you could cop a couple inches of gator sausage,
or Harpers. A bottle of Curaçao
toothed from my brother’s girlfriend’s totebag
and the assistant scowled.
We grew up in the relative Eden of the free world:
the ads for allsorts, of course; the ads for unthings, too –
frantic anthropomorph chocolates on a billboard
and a Scotch-Irish Jesus Christ.
The barber had a buzzcut rabbit printed on the bricks:
Hare-cuts; the Lunatic Fringe.
At home, hearth Arkansas, me and my bigkid brothers
hurtling up the stairs in parenthesis
for another clumsy dinner;
we were almost at driving age
and already growing verdigris –
milky nebulas of whiteheads and pus –
the hemispheres that welted on my knees –
and our bonsai hairlines.
Dad would coast in from his Atlanta connection
and fleece himself in the foyer –
first sealskin bag then dog-oiled topcoat,
heaving with Earl Grey and a new red beard.
The dog refused to recognize him
and sulked into his bark collar
which my mother had bought.
Its cathodes lanced, then scorched, his pelt
and the oldest of us cried
and thumped me with a pair of baseball cleats.
Once I pulled my father’s topcoat over
and inhaled his tannins, nicotine and tea,
and fell asleep for twice-two hours until he came out shaved
and loaded me into the bedroom.
We didn’t say. I was almost too heavy.
The day flashed green
with a tornado warning
then cooled to cobalt –
the terminal azure of the evening cars.
I remember how the days passed then:
Some days. Nights, too. Wiry stars.