Last night I had the privilege to read a portion of my poem “Disorder Above Key West” accompanied by the immensely talented musician and painter Nathan Stephenson.
The Back Roads to Tallahassee
Took the back roads to Tallahassee
to avoid the monotony of mile markers,
dead armadillos, and exit signs.
Took the back roads, took my time.
Didn’t make it quick enough to see him die,
but my step-mama filled me in,
sucking on a Marlboro like a man,
“A horrible death, a horrible death,” she said,
over and over, shaking her head.
I didn’t know what to say. “Too bad.”
“He fought it hard,” she said, “screamed
‘Get that Gotdamn light out of my face,’
then up and passed.” She’d took a picture
and showed it to me. Looked like
all dead people look – his eyes froze,
his mouth froze open like a fish.
No, my daddy and me didn’t get along,
the house not big enough to hold
the two of us. Like in that
Springsteen song. We’d cuss each other
and sometimes come to blows. Of course,
me, 35, half his age, been able whip him
for a while. He sure whipped me
back then before, cracking a buckled belt.
Can’t quite pity the poor dead bastard,
laying there waxy with his hair slicked back
in that Sears and Roebuck suit, striped tie,
his mouth glued closed, his eyes glued shut.
His daddy beat him, and that daddy
beat that daddy before that. I ain’t
got no offspring, but got my own
business, mind my own business,
so I have the time to take my time,
to take the back roads, to avoid
traffic, to miss all them 18-wheelers in a hurry
to reach them warehouses they can’t abide.