Maybe because his back was bent,
left leg two inches shorter than right,
or because he was too tired to swing a belt
after fourteen-hour stints in gravel pits,
or because his own daddy was a pacifist—
whatever the reason,
mine never went for corporal punishment.
When I broke shit
or drank gin
or got caught
screwing Becky Horvath in her hatchback,
my old man walked me out to the dunghill.
A soft enough place to sit,
If you didn’t mind the damp
and shut your eyes
you might think you were at a spa.
A nice weekly, steamy getaway
I sometimes stared at the horses,
thinking I should steal them,
sell them. I sometimes fantasized
about a wheelbarrow full of feces
dumped on Daddy’s bed.
He always slept on his left side,
way out on the right edge,
as if to make sure
he wasn’t hogging
all the real estate.
Mama traded him in
for Jimmy Henry Jackson,
a motorcycle salesman,
when I was ten.
When I was seventeen,
out of spite, I bought a bike from Uncle Jim,
drove it from Missoula clear to Tuscaloosa
’cause I thought I had a thing for southern girls.
It’d be nice to say, I never went back.
It’d be nice to say, I’m on some tenure track.
It’d be nice to say, I didn’t spend my days
shoveling shit for a manure manufacturer
It’s not exactly any of that.
Sometimes you wind up up north again,
too tired to think past supper,
too tired to remember
the last time you had any blood
in your pecker.
I used to toss words
like lit M-80s
at my father.
I used to toss
and start fires.
Have you ever imagined
a mountain of shit made into a funeral pyre?