We visited fatherâ€™s home
as children, my brother and I,
out back where unkempt grass rustled,
green hairs curling around the rocky ditch.
Phosphorescence fleeting in the muggy dusk,
we snatched hundreds from the air,
feeling the beetle wings beat
against our fingers.
Father poked holes in the pickle jar lid
with his pocketknife
and running the length of his shirtless torso
his raw, earthworm scar
from a bike crash.
His apartment littered with ashtrays, chrome,
motorcycle guts and guitar strings.
We put our bug jar
in our bedroom for a nightlight;
the insects died by morning.
We didnâ€™t know how to keep
I squished one once,
and his insides made my fingers glow.
Now fatherâ€™s face is long, bone-pale,
an Oâ€™Keefe waiting for brushstrokes,
and his teeth are tortured gold
by the leaf that wrote his eviction notice.
â€œCancer,â€ the doc says, squirming;
we wish his clipboard held lightning bugs
instead of medical script.
On the hospital lawn,
the wounded blades sing their greenest scent.
The lights blink on,
and the lights blink off.
The smoking section pools their change,
for the haze breaks,
and no one wants to see anotherâ€™s face.
This is the last place to find
cigarette machines slouching on linoleum.
Dixie leans on this machine,
one fist knuckling her biscuit hip.
She wipes gravy from her chin;
thumbs her ticket book.
Her thighs glide skin on skin
as she offers burnt coffee, sweet tea
and outstanding checks for Jackson and Lee.
Sheâ€™s the kind of person who,
in church, makes change in the offering plate.
She is unfamiliar
with the smell of yellowed books.
But here she glows in the neon buzz,
her cotton apron, her scabby knees,
her misplaced pride that never rises again.
Sheâ€™s been here so long,
she can hum any tune on that jukebox
so long as itâ€™s lonesome
and sung by Patsy Cline.