I stop by the roadside market where Vera boils peanuts
in a twelve-gallon vat, and watch steam
reach a high silvering paw over the lush coma
of a produce stand years younger than her.
Sandstone chimera statues stand guard out front.
Quite a remedy for our collective fear of strangers,
these moments when pleasantries
exchange themselves innocently
and without permission—
my whatcha know good, Vera's I can't call it.
Instincts are animalistic. The teeth of lion
and woman the same. Like the debutante who sleeps
through noon on the weekends and wakes
with her arms stretched out,
faint static between mouth and pillow.
Or how, in the raw of boyhood, I ached for
the fortunate walls in that room, their hanging ribbons.
Because we grew with our own reasons
for chasing, I say these dump trucks
can rumble like hulks along a skinny two-lane highway
and wish they knew better, and Vera, filling out
an oversized tent dress with its wiry patterned
blue hydrangea, is the infinite romance
of my daydreams, before a hen's claws
pressed their permanence to her temples,
into the crooks of her hay-strong arms. These days
she recites all the county seats
in order of dead Indian chief.
Dukakis—Bentsen bumper stickers
behind the homemade mayhaw jelly
she peddles to Yankees on vacation,
their palm tree button downs and Technicolor
fanny packs. They stare at her all wrong.
She adds cayenne to the vat
with a twice-broken pinky her grandkids call
the talon, and tries not to hate
the words they know, that they don't cut promises
into their palms and shake hands.
Behind the market, her husband
crows about a news anchor and the damned Mexicans
and man, how she stirs, carefully
managing salt levels, estimating
the number of stabs it would take to kill a husband
with a roasting fork, if the fork-wielder
is of a mind, and has some bulk in her shoulder.
What a blessing is a new man standing by
your wife's best apples,
asking questions as sweet as their insides,
who doesn't know she took a life in '73
when the doe ran in front of her Buick.
I hope her pedal was bound to the floor
as if it were tied up in ivy, wild
with the yellow light of fiercely manicured toes.
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:
Daylight as a Chainsaw
A King Dies With His Bloodhounds in the Hay