My dad's old friends came round to our apartment sometimes:
friends whose real allegiance lied with nostalgia for my father,
who would come round for some beer
and a guilty look at my mother’s ***.
Today, as usual, she let them track mud through our little house, cackling like hyenas
and pretending to admire the art on our walls.
She let 'em do it but then we all went out on the porch and they started to tell me, as mama looked on with pursed, painted lips,
bout the time my daddy’d -
well i never ever did find out what my daddy'd done
*** that's when she slammed down the case of beer
on the patio table.
All three of them paused to look at her.
It was like she’d turned them all off, with a button that she kept hidden in her *****.
for a second they realized how sad she must've been,
they realized he probably shot himself right upstairs
and then they looked at me
like I was a dead little boy
wearing my daddy's eyes.
I missed when they’d been smiling merrily, slapping the table with each joke and
wiping the sweat off their foreheads with their wrists and
leaning back in their chairs, flicking their lighters against their cigarettes and
savoring mouthfuls of chewing gum and dip,
'*** now they were still.
“Now don’t go tellin’ tales to John,” she said, and doled out a few drip-cold beers to shut them up.
They washed the stories down with her alcohol and all just forgot about it,
or more likely,
they'd started thinking about that button
burrowed between my mother’s *******.