Monday, December 18, 2017

Roadmaps




The uncle who married the Irish nurse in Boston. The uncle who drank himself to death after his own son died in a car. The uncle who died in the war. The uncle who took his father's job at the Feed Co-Op. The uncle who lived in Korea. The uncle the judge. The uncle the mechanic. The uncle the priest. The uncle the travel writer. The uncle the spy. The uncle who was rode out of Frankfort on a rail after flashing a negro schoolgirl. The uncle who moved to New York, got locked up in the stockades, and ended up driving a cab over on Hudson Street. The uncle who moved to New York and lasted a week. The uncle who moved to Budapest chasing a girl. The uncle who moved to Scotland chasing a girl. The uncle who moved to California chased by a girl. The uncle who still lives in Nashville with his husband. The uncle who quit drinking. The uncle who didn't. The uncle who taught you how to drive. The uncle who taught you how to shoot. The uncle who taught you how to siphon gas out from an old International Harvester. The uncle who fell off a train and died. The uncle who fell off a horse. The hands and the knuckles and the bones in the faces. The shoulders and the teeth and the blood.  Bellies and livers and lungs. The smell of coffee and cigarettes and whiskey. Trucks and the cars and pocketknives and rifles and cameras. Wristwatches. Buckshot. Birdseed and dog food. The uncle who showed you what your own father knew but couldn't show you. The uncle who shows you what his own brother can't.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sparrow Thin

     When she died she died angry, to nobody's surprise, and when she left she left it with us. "Bad checks written that couldn't be cashed," as someone said somewhere about somebody else. I stayed up late reading her letters, listening to her messages, studying her photographs, and that anger continued to rise off of the page like a fire. Those were scores we couldn't even hope to settle, scores that were firmly in place before we even came along. We knew it, she knew it, but she couldn't stop it. Just knowing it was there wasn't enough. When she died we were just climbing down from one of those big fights we'd periodically have. One of those explosions followed by months-long silences, neither of us willing to put up with the other one's shit. Even after she died, especially so, I searched myself for any signs of remorse and came up mostly clean. Not entirely clean. It was another in a series of fights that made me grateful for the width and breadth of the ocean that separated us. She'd sent us all scattering. Her grandfather used to fly into homicidal rages, incoherent fits of absolute anger that would make him go blind and once landed him in a Gainesville prison. Her father, fueled by speed and evil design, fell into spells of total fury and violence that made her retreat to the relative calm of that same raging grandfather a smart move by comparison. So just knowing it wasn't enough. I look at myself now and I see it right there. I listen to myself now and I hear it. I smell myself now and I can smell the anger off me. I can taste it on my tongue. I can feel it through my uncut fingernails, through my badly shaven face. I can smell it off my skin. When she died she was tiny, sparrow-thin. You could see her heartbeat echoing through her chest. When she died she was tiny. All that anger coming out of a body so small.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Cold Clear Night

     He thought he could outrun it, and for a little while he could.

     He thought he could outsmart it. Thought he could outdrink it. Thought he could outwork it. Outswim it. Outwalk it. Outeat it. Outsmoke it. Outfuck it. Outdrug it. Outshout it. Outspend it. Outpace it. Thought he could outdrive it. Thought he could outread it. Thought he could outwrite it.

     He thought he could wait it out, but in the end it couldn't wait.