—after the April 27, 2011 tornado
Provenance is the highest form
of self-made fable, how we blasted out like buckshot,
convinced that speed limit signs were catapults
or the downtown sleds of soul songs we wished to captain
would someday bring us on home,
not the hand-me-down Granadas that did.
For the red-willowing fireworks
who never fell, home is the scar we show,
and if the tornado turned Alberta City pitch black,
twisted an aureate glow of storefront and bedroom
window into one wicked braid
that gave nothing back,
brick mangled from mortar,
the hiss and crack
of grounded power lines,
let us be honest in our abandonments.
If Tuscaloosa is our mother,
let the Big Sip cups outlast the birthstone, raise high
the K of the Krispy Kreme.
Where dark earth quivered into ramps
for a Haro to catch tires and quicken,
let those who stayed gamble with the sky.
Since daylight smells like chainsaw teeth,
skip the aubade.
Better the syrupy Appalachian apology
on the sign at the Moon Winx Motel
to tell us there's no highfaluting way to see
no vacancy, no allure in asbestos or exposed insulation,
and the act of building is never cherished
as much as mourning
what was built and lost,
so you'll excuse me if I talk about city limits
as if every piece of median trash
is an angel, while a woman of wine
offers generous council.
All of our tragedies are ordinary.
She's right. That the monster
dredges her Nebraska every season
means memory is a stitch sewn through the familiar.
Fasten mine to the West Alabama Fairgrounds,
its overgrown girders gone.
Rusted gondolas hung from the Ferris wheel
without sound, the sky like a hillbilly planetarium,
an idea of the endless only a carnival worker would know,
searching puddle-muck below the Matterhorn
for visions of past stop-off towns, natives to nowhere,
fields flattened as fried hard eggs.
An homage to small architecture and low expectation.
Before this town adopts a mess of construction crews,
beautification projects, Irish pub
for the Skyland Pawn, a condo for the Taco Casa,
take us one more time around.
The lights of Druid City Hospital
flicker their yellows and off-whites
as if we are gently pulling ourselves from a great outlet
the aigrettes of ryegrass below cannot locate,
though they once knew the surnames of footfall.
We still rely on them to keep the fields,
to never forgive the wind, and their inflorescence
unbuttons the evening's one good dress shirt
for the buzz or click of insects
who used to visit more, and never slept.
Chris Mink was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was a finalist for the 2014 Tupelo Press Berkshire Prize, and semi-finalist for the 2014 Saturnalia Poetry Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review
, Star 82 Review
, and It Was Written: An Anthology of Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop
, among others. He currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida, where he will receive his PhD in English from Florida State University in December 2014.
more by Chris Mink:
Last Peanut Woman
A King Dies With His Bloodhounds in the Hay