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ISSUE:  Winter 2019

Birmingham, Alabama


Bile-colored flutes survive along bog rock,
red-veined with a fine fuzz:

canebrake pitchers
hooded against the good rain.

Interiors sweet to seduce insects, waxy gullets
slicked to thicken their wings.

Downward-pointing spikes
say that way to the fallen-in

prey, like spears that expect the boar
to charge when cornered.

A human nose is drawn, in April,
when a fragrance bursts

five deep red petals atop a flagpole stem.
The nose is attached to a woman.

Her resemblance to me
physical and, somehow, linguistic.

What multitudinous particularity I afford her, once
we are twinned.

O repulsive gorgeous
ordinary me—watch how she lingers,

feet soaked by what rock can’t absorb.
Look at her breathing

the carnivorous please.



In Southside, stray goats terrorize the plants.
The ordinance passes:
“No goats.”
The part of Jail is played by the mayor’s attic.

For a while, the main drag remains
a crevasse gorged for ore.

My new double dyes her clothes in the old way,
with rattleweed and partridgeberry,
blues and orange-reds that bleed
into her skin in the summer
as she searches for someone
to buy her various vessels.
Wooden bowls for water or for salt.

She dies beneath a wheel—at what will become
a young age—where a century and then some later,
I’ll leap over a furrow in the woods,

running from the two-bit axe
the boy next door got for Christmas,
spattering red mud up my shins.

Iron scent. Thick red. It is always wet
there, in the valley.

Only Confederate vets can afford to live
on the hill. The steel smoke rises up to their eyelines,
stacks sticking up like a bed of nails.



For eight straight days, red surpasses the century
mark in mercury thermometers.                Birmingham boils,
and my father, nineteen years old,
buys himself a bar
with what small song he’s saved.

The front doors, bolted shut since a double murder.
Dust, thumb-thick on the floor.

Where Devil’s Disciples used to lift soapy pints
and shoot pool to the frantic blues of George Thorogood,
my father sweeps in the dark;
it’s too hot for lights. Sweat like an ocean
in his two bad eyes,

he stumbles outside,
coughs clouds of time onto the curb
where hog lovers’ Harleys once stabled
twenty abreast.

He has no business owning any establishment, no big plan
but for a place where his buddies can drink. A boy

with fat-knuckled hands, which have yet to touch
the woman with my mother’s face, who will hurt him
just as much as he can handle,
then a little more.



A drone casts a shadowless shadow
on the northwest side
of the Five Points Circle.

The old little bomber’s sign,
mounted like a specimen
on a sheet-white wall overlooks

where my father once dragged
two bags of poisoned rats
out of his bar. A woman, doubled

with age, waits for a car to steer its wheels
to her side, recognize her face
and open its door, her musical tastes

determined, as in created, and fulfilled.
Sponsored by Big Meat, the opening beats
cause her to crave iron.

Anemic, tongue to wrist,
(surveillance sees this)
she glows in the vehicle’s red lights.

Red Sea is a very “in” color.
She bites down, bites down
on what she can. In the photos it takes

to commemorate her journey, the car’s lens
lengthens her lashes, redarkens her hair,
neatens the blood on her lips

into a crimson pout.



To imagine a thing is now, legally, to own it,
and so my double owns

the sound of her father calling her name
from the lips of a marble statue at Brother Bryan Park,
barely visible through the kudzu,

and the rats that scramble toward her
through the vines as she tries to sleep
there, at the statue’s knees.

She cannot fathom cool mist morning.

She cannot fathom peace.

Soon, a team will change its mascot
from Rebels to Kindly Masters,
make game-day whips
silent when cracked against the back of the air.

It is considered unevolved to understand
how slavery happened.

No more salt in the grease, grace in the silt, ice on the eaves.

Time mere yet ravaging between us, my double stands on the foundation
of a done-for Victorian, trying to imagine
a past that keeps slipping her leash.

A strobe of ghosts Morse-codes a warning
down in the valley along Fifteenth Street,
where kids long ago threw Coke bottles of kerosene and straw
into a fresh mine ditch for fun.

Just wanting to see.


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