CL Bledsoe, lyrically enough, lives in Glencoe, Maryland. He is the author of _____(Want/Need), Anthem, Riceland and Texas (forthcoming), and Goodbye To Noise, which is available online. He also is an editor for Ghoti Magazine.
© 2009 CL Bledsoe
Dad built the red-brick house with his own hands
which meant it was someone else’s job
to keep it clean. Mom taught school until
she retired early, while a succession
of house keepers and nurses dumped bleach
in the toilet in the blackening bathroom, loaded
and unloaded the dishwasher, ducked the cobwebs.
Ms. Crossin lived with her forty-five year old
son, believed the Earth was flat, and the moon
landing was filmed in Arizona. She was older
than Dad, but that didn’t stop her from putting
in her teeth to flirt.
She smelled of copper and sweat, deep-fried
hotdogs split down the middle and stuffed
with cheese for lunch or sent me on my bike to buy
barbecue downtown. She threw out all of Mom’s papers
she could find one day, said we were too old
to still be thinking about that, and climbed into my bed
if I lingered in the mornings. She asked questions
I couldn’t answer or understand. Once, she wore nothing
but a raincoat to work. I hid in my bedroom until Dad
came home late that night. The morning after I was caught
stealing from the IGA store she found me sulking
in my room, backed me into a corner, and yelled,
“Do you think nobody loves you?” with greedy eyes
that hovered around my face like gnats.
The City with a Smile
On highway 64 between Helena and Jonesboro,
a giant cross forced on the sprawl of hills dotted
with churches and fast-food eateries; gas stations
and strip malls slowly succumb to vacancy
and horizon. Ranch-style houses splinter in all
directions. Trash and car washes. Train cars rust
in the shimmering heat, waiting for the freight
to come back, their tracks more wall than line.
Teenagers cruise from the bowling alley to Sonic
and back, park by Wal-Mart to neck or drive out
to Big Eddie Bridge to smoke pot and complain
while lightning bugs dance in the trees. There is
high-school football and judging others. There is
Jonesboro, Memphis, Little Rock, if you can drive.
Summer fairs and satellite TV. Further out,
there are rice fields, a handful of dwindling factories
with their bags already packed for Korea. Wynne,
this sleepover town near enough but not Memphis,
founded on the spot where a train derailed. We thought
we were tough because we spent one dry-eyed year
in the run-down Junior High across the tracks
before moving to the new one in the middle of town.
We were wiser than Solomon in our packs,
more concerned with the price of each others’ shoes
than the usage, already learning to turn up our noses
at the secrecies of the heart. We were killing time until graduation
or sixteen and old enough to drop out without losing
our licenses. Vo-Tech meant half days today, but Honors
meant a future. Teachers whispered to the few of us who’d listen:
study hard and you can go to college and never come back.
All work is property of CL Bledsoe.
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