Early Dark

The down on Glory Tucker’s jaw was blue,
and the wheel wells of his bumperless
Galaxy 500 were black enough to seem
violet when he parked beside his father’s
house. He held me gingerly about the waist
and gave me the imperceptible kiss
impossible to find on my side of town
where all the lips were wet and clumsy
with the embarrassment of good breeding.
Glory held two fingers to the bottom
of my spine and moved me to the door
circled in broken bowls, chains,
and the leaping, drooling dogs.
His father was parked in the damp
light of the TV, and the cans
around his chair rattled when he stood,
nodded somewhere beyond me and touched
my shoulder in that delicate way
I knew from his son, who offered me
then, a cold, white carnation dipped in blue.

When my mother said other side
of the tracks,
with that hard look,
I thought mostly of the ties I’d followed
along the river, the bridge I’d never
dared cross because there was only
space enough for one train. For every
good girl who dreamed of one day straddling
a Harley behind a boy from the other
side and peeling the stars out of the sky
like coins for the rest of her life,
there was one like me who knew
I’d have to go alone, slapping
those stars on like lights, shaking
the shadows out of the streets,
and holding the jailed faces of those
fathers up to mine, lest I forget
how much comfort I’d owe a man
who had nothing but a bottle, a chair,
blue light and the woman whose face
reminds him only of the last time

he was alive. Though I pretended
not to, I understood why my mother
asked what their fathers do, dear.
I did not tell her that Glory was
a father, that the photo of the red-haired
baby on the TV his father gazed into,
was his, that I had met his father
in a bar just outside the gates
to the glass factory, that I already knew
you couldn’t love a man into a better life,
but I wasn’t done pretending, would not
even now, give up that one night
we parked his silver car in a pool
of bruised moonlight on South River Road
and lay down head to head on the highway’s
cool white line, daring the future
to crest the next hill and marry us
to the steely path out of the valley.

:: Leslie Adrienne Miller, Ungodliness (Carnegie Mellon,1994)

No comments:

Post a Comment