There is no substitute for hunger
No pain can replace the emptiness of starvation
And depression only serves as an appetizer
Not able to stave off the horrors of nights spent awake,
Afraid of the dark and the sounds that merge
Into a loud roar, a deafening scream only heard by me
Lights are blinding when the world stops spinning
Amplifying every sensation and the sound of a beating heart
Is all I can hear when paralysis takes over --
Faces meld into distorted shapes when the walls
Creep closer and the floor rises to greet the ceiling
As it slides down, trapping me in a world
That’s too small to breathe.
Growing up Southern;
kind not seen on TV,
the old tin trailer,
window unit air conditioner,
always facing the road.
School pictures every year,
fresh hair cut and thrift store suit.
Hold that smile, no retakes,
the proofs going in the album --
"boy ain't you grow'n up"
Hee Haw reruns keep grandpa happy,
reminding him of a time that never was.
That's alright, though,
we like to hear about it anyway --
Bedtime stories before he leaves,
Got to clean the tanks at the paint factory.
Work in the garden all summer long
fighting weeds while momma cleans houses.
Daddy left to look for work about four years ago.
He ain't found it yet, but we still see him.
He lives with his girlfriend just down the road.
Coke bottles are worth a nickel,
"so pick 'em up."
Third town in three years,
and a job in the mill,
cleaning dustbins at night.
It’s minimum wage, but you get Labor Day off,
and enough money left over on payday
to buy a carton of cigarettes and a case of beer.
Lot rent is due every Saturday
Don't forget the cashier's check to pay the light bill.
The damn school needs more money?
Day's are too short and nights too long.
Kids are raising themselves--
And you see them,
every day on your drive to the office
and when you drop your kids off at school
but you’re too busy to notice the dirty jeans,
and shaved haircut of the kid who just hopped off the bus
and is rushing to the cafeteria for his first meal since school lunch yesterday,
weekends are cold pop-tarts and stale-barbeque chips.
Momma’s working two shifts at the greasy-spoon
and who the Hell knows where daddy’s run off to.
But in the end, it doesn’t really matter,
cause come Monday morning that yellow bus is coming to the rescue him
from the countless hours of reality TV, and flat coke,
and smoking fake joints with the thirteen-year-old next door
who just stole his brother’s rolling papers and his sister’s lighter.
But, hey, life really begins on that bus;
an hour and a half ride
learning new cuss words and hoping the eighth graders in the back
don’t start teasing him about his dirty shirt or his coat that’s a little too small,
so, he sinks down in his seat and holds on to the only good thing he’s got,
a made-up memory of grandpa’s farm
milking cows and catfishing all night with the older brother he never had
and big family meals with table cloths and apple pie
birthday presents in wrapping paper and cousins to play with on Thanksgiving afternoon
while Daddy and Uncle Jim stretch out and watch football.
The jolt from the bus-stop jars him awake
and he hops off and heads for that little carton of 2% milk and mini-box of Lucky Charms--
All he has to do is hand them his punch card with the rest of the free-lunch kids.
I flip the collar of my fleece lined coat
Protecting me from the cold North wind.
The chill bites at my ears. The warmth
From the camp fire can’t reach me,
So I hunch down further into my coat
And tilt my head from the wind as best I can.
It’s my first coon hunt with my grandfather,
My father, and his Uncle Charlie. I try hard
To mimic them, to be the men they are,
But all I can think about is my bed
And the heavy patchwork quilt my grandmother made.
I listen to the men tell hunting stories from years ago.
I see my father glance at me, a stern look,
But compassionate making sure I am
Hanging-tough. I’m careful not to embarrass him.
The moon is high and full. I can see the speckled stars
Flickering through the bare October canopy.
Without saying a word my grandfather stands,
Picks up his rifle and looks through the treetops.
His half Blue Tick, half Walker Hound moves,
Nose to the ground -- disappearing into the darkness.