This is red clay dust on an Arkansas backroad.
This is me telling you exactly what you want to hear:
we wore corduroy jackets,
their sleeves at our palms, and said
black faces look better in the rain than ours.
I don’t know what we were—I don’t remember
how it felt to be called bedraggled and obscene.
Our mothers smeared mercure chrome
on our knees and elbows when we fell,
and kissed us perhaps with too much force
those nights our fathers were away, taunting
slow horses, tilting their flasks toward Mary and June.
Certain strands of our bodies grew larger
than maps when we slept, when we imagined
more innocent worlds, rivers filled with Indians,
canoes as long as our mothers’ necklaces
and silver combs. Being boys was easy,
though the Gospels made us shiver with regret,
and Preacher William said Jesus was watching,
counting our sins the way we counted
the cracks on our bedroom walls or how many times
our fathers coughed when they stood shaving
or recounting how much better it was before,
when they were boys and twenty German Shepherds
slept on the courthouse plaza in Little Rock.
Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems have appeared in dozens of magazines, including The Maine Review and Posit. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Boon is currently editing a volume on food in American literature.