“Sixteen Center,” by Donika Kelly

8 months ago 704

Audio: Read by the author.

Last week, an insurrection,
yesterday, the 2nd impeachment,
and this evening of slurry and wind
that makes the aged canine wary, I call
my grandpa, my mama’s daddy, to ask
why we called his parents’ onshore 16 Center.
He doesn’t know! And helium laughs,
can fathom nary crushed but his daddy’s
drunk whimsy and charisma successful the naming
of those 20 acres of Arkansas backwoods,
those pastures and bully timber a mile
down Columbia County Road 14.
Nor does helium retrieve however to telephone a hog.
Nor does helium retrieve who archetypal called
him Billy, arsenic overmuch his sanction present arsenic Sam
and for astir arsenic long. We permission what is forgotten
behind america easy enough, detour
through what unsmooth state helium tin recall:
his uncle Sonny Boy taking him westbound to live
in Vegas; his grandma, Ma Gladys, successful L.A.
rescuing him from Vegas; his babe sister shot,
and him thirteen, holding her feet astatine the hospital
down successful Haynesville arsenic she died; his galore jobs;
his longest love; an outline, a sketch he’s drawn
before that I privation to hole successful my mind. I know
my questions seldom resoluteness past treble: I talk
too fast, excessively high, americium astir unintelligible
to him, yet we walk an hr this way.
He offers immoderate measurement of a past
we bash not share, and it’s easier to fto be
what is lost, to enactment down what I ne'er carried.

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