I slide restless into an up north bar, all fake wood grain
and flickering beer signs, audition for an overnight haul
that will pound the pain out of me. Look for loggers,
measure them by the damage they can deal.
I settle on a young blonde bull, Thor in strained flannel,
for the way his toothpick clatters over his teeth
like a rattler’s warning, the horned calluses on his palms,
his quiet. This is a man who will fuck the way he fells trees.
Later, in the cricket chorus of springs in his fold-out couch,
he unwraps the menagerie of my skin, stares at my arms
like they are open wounds, reads the scrawled chaos
like scat, his coiled snake jaw muscle ticking and I brace
against the timber and crash but instead he takes me down
the way he would put an injured deer out of its misery.
Don’t think I don’t know what y’all are saying.
Sure you dress them words up in striped canvas
and spit but I’m from Caneyville, Kentucky, boy,
and we know all about speaking in tongues.
I’m sure you got a whole map of girls with stone pretty ears
that can’t keep up with your gone tomorrow flicker talk
but these three rings of syllables sliding around my head
mean slick posters plastered to barns read like dictionaries.
I been straining toward a week full of train whistles
since long before your wagons and sideshows rolled on in,
been leaning between tent ropes listening â€˜til
understanding’s flame lit your shiny chatter right up.
So go ahead and call me queen and I’ll blush pretty
as an unbruised peach at your cotton candy talk
but I hear that innuendo snaking under your teeth
and the fat possum belly hanging unsaid in the dust.
Go on and think I’m nothing but a hick-easy afternoon
and a smirk to your boys behind grease-stained knuckles,
act like you’re showing me Broadway and big top
wedged under a wagon, air rusty with promises and sweat.
I’ll be holding my breath as tight as you hold me. Staring
at that iron ribcage while you pant and grunt me an escape.
Whispering spirit speak and tomorrow seeds in your grimy ear
while you doze tangled salty in my straw-scattered hair.
I ain’t no first of May fling you’ll be able to scrape away
when y’all pull up stakes and push your show on the next town.
My belly will be a lodestone swinging train track north,
pulling me jumpward, pointing anywhere but here.