Triptych—The Light, The End, The Light
The lawn is a coarse, green carpet
waiting to shred my feet
so my oxygenless blood can feed its roots.
Heavy clouds suffocate my cries.
It has picked a perfect day to drown me.
I slide into the soil.
The metallic taste of dirt fills me—
nose, mouth, and lungs. Days pass.
A sharp stab of light wakes me
when a shovel breaks ground, just missing
my head. It is little Jimmy Millican,
from next door, attempting, again,
to dig to China. He has heard the women there
are beautiful, and he misses his mother.
No, he doesn’t miss her, but the idea
of her, a different idea entirely
than the one his father has, every night,
sitting in his boxers on the edge
of the narrow bed, downing another oxycontin
to bring on sleep. “Dad!” screams Jimmy—
“A girl is buried in the yard!”
“Stop fucking around Jimmy—It’s not
funny! That astounding sound of loneliness
when the first shovelful of dirt
hit your mother’s coffin—” but he trails off,
train of thought lost in a cloud of numbness.
Jimmy reaches down, pulls me out—
his father’s gone again. He has to be the man now.
“You better watch it, Blondie,” his father mutters.
“Next time, Jimmy here might not be digging
for worms.” An orange glower from Jimmy
aimed at Dad—“I will so be digging—Now I know
we have a pretty lady patch in the front yard.”
“Qué loco—” his father nods knowingly.
We all worry for Jimmy but not enough
because in ten years he will think the electric fence
is talking to him—asking him to feed it things—
At first turtles and frogs,
then kittens. Until one day, he walks naked
into its embrace—finding the light
a shovel makes when it splits the soil.
Why Gold-digging Fails
Because there was the tattoo artist
who took us for rides on his motorcycle
and gave Jenny the hand-sized fairy on her stomach
that she swore she’d never ruin by getting pregnant
and the most beautiful guy we’d ever seen
who was cruising with his friend in an olive green
hooptie that we hoped was a sign of his rebellion
against rich parents who maybe had bought him a Mercedes
which he traded for something “more sensible”
because something about him seemed rich
and not at all small-town, and we didn’t know
who he was, until on a break from college
I was out with a friend who said, “I should stop by
and see my friend Mike. Want to meet him?”
We waited in a dark living room decorated in
early nineties thrift store—dank green sofas,
padding pluming out the cushions—talking
to a doughy blonde girl who must have been pretty
thirty pounds ago, as she pushed a fat, laughing baby
in one of those yellow and white gingham swings
that clickety-clacks as they unwind,
when in walked the guy we’d always wanted,
not dressed down for a rich guy but dressed up
for one of us—
neatly pressed flannel tucked into Wranglers
nearly hiding tawny construction boots,
like the ones I wore when roofing—
and there was that odd moment of recognition
and fumbling for words
when quantum theory hit me and I realized
if we’d tried harder instead of merely flirting
in parking lots at the beach and the Dairy Queen
and the drive-in that sold gallons of homemade root beer
either of us could be that chubby blonde woman
with the fat baby
and the happy husband waiting for green olive burgers
in our own little utopia
ten miles further than our mothers got.
Because every time we hung out at the billiards room
of the Condos at the lake,
the rich people gave us dirty looks.
They knew what we were up to—
two blonde girls in Daisy Dukes
and bikini tops
in a borrowed sports car
hunting for rich boyfriends,
anything to get us out of Argos, Indiana.
My grandmother, also, must have tried this bit,
working as a dishwasher in the kitchen
of the academy. My brother, too, worked there.
Maybe his motives were more pure.
All I know is for Jenny and me none of this worked.
Her one rich boyfriend used to beat her
to a pulp; and I decided to leave my marriage
with enough money to fix a timing belt,
just in case my engine decided to go.
Our parents had tried to warn us. They knew our game.
The rich aren’t like you and me, my father used to say,
The rich aren’t like you and me.
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