Roman à Clef

Summer days my dad was drunk by dark,
firing his shotgun at the grackles,
those golden-eyed phantoms whistling in the hemlock.
Later, ma would send me
into the blackness to find him,
lost in Crawford’s orchard,
mumbling to himself in the dirt.

I was sixteen when Suzanne the beekeeper
peeled off her spacesuit
on the green bank of the Pacolet,
a 9mm tattooed on her right breast, a bible on her left.
I spent July & August
worshipping the pistol & the good book,
came to on a slippery rock,
bloody & bone-bruised,
when she left for Murphy in September.

I still picture my parents as the shadows I knew
when we lived in that rickety house,
the creaky bones, colander roof, staircase
moaning like an out of tune cello:
dad, who died sober a decade ago, pacing in the woods,
ma, whose memory dried like a creek bed,
floating through a blue room with a vacation smile.

Some nights it’s like I ride those wings
back to the river & the evergreens,
Suzanne towering in the wet grass,
hands slapping at the moon.
My body flares with the din of the grackles,
their manic jazz, one savage horn rising over the rest.
In dream after dream, it’s the music I always wanted,
& before I wake, starlight
spills over me, over everything.