by Chris Burton
Was it you?
That used to scold me
when I’d put items back
in the supermarket
out of place?
Can you believe how she looks now?
I bet she won’t stop working out
until she gets definition
on her abs again.
I heard she wants to lose ten pounds.
That’s too much pressure.
Our cashier isn’t interested in the exchange of pleasantries.
But I get it.
Full day of work, last shift. It sucks.
Don’t know how much I’d smile.
From the looks of my grocery bagging skills, don’t know how much use I’d be either.
You always make me bag!
I never understood that.
The times when you are paying I get it but I had money in my pocket this time!
We’re standing in the wrong places.
I must be lousy.
The cashier bags these items with ease.
I manage to get three bags worth of groceries into the cart.
She seems so unencumbered by the categories.
Flawless. She knows to put kindred items into the bags. Record time.
She doesn’t smile but she packs these groceries with love.
Reminds me of Ms. June from the cafeteria in Davidson.
Made the best sandwiches on earth!
Three hundred kids in line, each one leaving with a piece of her love.
If you looked close, you could see her painting with mayonnaise and mustard smiles.
God I’m hungry.
This morning I tarried over dishes.
Mind isn’t clear if my kitchen isn’t.
And it made no sense to cook a good meal in a dirty kitchen.
I can’t fathom taking on the enterprise of straightening up when I felt so weak.
Two pieces of toast should suffice.
I’ll take them with a grapefruit juice so I can keep my constitution.
Downed medicine, to these dishes.
Remember how meticulous Prednisone made me?
I felt so focused when I came home from the hospital.
Everyday was a challenge.
An opportunity for victory.
I thought I died everyday.
Standing in front of the microwave, clutching my chest
Determined to set the time so at least when you found me
You would know when it was.
Shaking in the hospital bed, calling for the nurse.
It all felt over didn’t it?
Slipping away seconds before I belched something serious.
But I learned that most things you think are gonna kill you
Are usually just gas.
I know you hate washing dishes.
Who could blame you?
Felt like every time we talked you were washing.
Were you the only one who had to do chores?
I hate your mom for that.
You seem like Cinderella to me.
There’s a method to my madness for sure.
I like to take utensils put them in a bowl.
With oatmeal crusted on the side, it’s ripe for soaking.
The cups are rinsed so the contents don’t spread in the dishwasher.
Nothing more disheartening–in the realm of kitchen cleaning–then having to rewash dishes.
Waste of work, wasted motion.
Lost time we can never reclaim.
It’s always a mountainous task.
The mountain becomes a hill
The hill becomes a drying rack
The rivers in the dishwasher roar
My work here is done.
I’m a fan of two sleeps
Yeah, I know, I make fun of how you sleep so much but it’s how i was raised.
i slept in a lot, don’t get me wrong,
but being in my bed past 8 made my grandma assume my sickness
dyam lazy, a sin less desirous than ailment
You remember how mad I was?
The whole day felt cranky.
Just left your parents house,
just left our lives in Charlotte
We were on our way
We must know 13 like the back of our hands now
traipsing from Maryland to the Turnpike
The heaviness of it all
Maybe I’m writing heaviness into my memories
I do remember getting mad
I told you to park in the driveway but you wouldn’t listen
You wanting to park on the street made no sense to me
this rage that i knew had to be displaced
an accumulation perhaps of debt for sins passed.
moments of insubordination, disobedience.
something wholly emasculating about not being listened to
Reminding me that I did not know what the hell I was talking about
Driving has never been my strong suit
Don’t know why I didn’t learn when most teenagers did
Young for my class, schooled in a different state than I lived
A hurricane of factors convincing me I didn’t need it
I tried it. Didn’t hate it but it didn’t make me come alive.
Only in my dreams that turned nightmarish.
Conscious of my feet
needing the break but growing heavy on the gas pedal
Reaching for the break with my left foot ensued panic
I panic with parking decks
Remember our trips from the seminary to the apartment?
Grew comfortable with the 3 mile trek
Til that brother came careening out of the parking deck
All I saw was doom impending but it wasn’t that bad
Save his lady yelling at me
Why sisters do that anyway?
Don’t they know words cut?
I mean, he was cool
I was cool
You were cool
But she had to trip
for no reason
After that I hated driving again.
took a while for me to get over how it felt
when my cousin yelled at me for losing focus
I get so anxious about driving my hands turn blue
only way I calm myself is remembering I drive for you
I never felt anyway about you being better than me
Always made me feel like we were progressive
You drive, I cook, I might stay home with the kids!
Could not care less about how it looks
I can be more than a good man for you, I can be a good human
Certainly felt neither when you stopped at the curb
It was so simple to me
Pull into the driveway
Say hello to the family
Bring bags upstairs
Come back downstairs
We got out of the car
I thought about how I was going to announce myself
To Grandma and you flew upstairs without a word to anyone
Ready to make a joke with Grandma but saw she was sleeping
Never knew how she slept soundly on hospital beds
Dialysis so taxing she had no choice but wonder if she truly got rest
My aunt told me that she just had dialysis earlier and was feeling awful
Does dialysis ever feel good?
I came upstairs to sleep
Pretty tired but not enough to forget being pissed
Naturally, I gave you the silent treatment
It’s never as refreshing as intended.
One thinks silence puts the offending party in their place
shows them the essential nature of your words
cripples them through the verbal war of attrition
but sleep was your defense
the heavens rocked with the ripple of your snores!
my teenage ghost petrified by the tree chopping
How can I savor silence while you sniff electronic music?
Well played my dear, well played.
When you wake, I air my grievances!
Feign innocence then assume all guilt
A tactic oft employed but I am always jarred
You had no idea, you are the worst.
Of course neither is true
I’m caught preserving self-esteem and a righteousness that isn’t worth it
I was called downstairs
My aunt’s voice was wrong
Grandma no longer breathed
I couldn’t pray
I stood convinced that her chest would raise
Never thought it’d be this way
Always feared I’d be hundreds of miles away
A phone call bearing the news
I still think of her and lose myself
It’s the triggers of rye bread
the reruns of Walker, Texas Ranger
So random the grief and the regret.
I remember when I knew I loved you
Felt it stirring for some time you know.
The slide from being cool and feeling healthy
We didn’t speak every week
Then I saw you everyday
Not able to imagine without you
Can I love without loss?
If I let on will you be taken away?
I’m a Job of sorts.
That day I made up my mind
To tell you how I felt was so beautiful.
We drove over to the next town
(Votin’ in the primaries)
One of those days where we matched by mistake.
Black shirts and khaki shorts
Made history and strolled.
Down the avenue was a dog and his man
I coolly stepped in front of you
Easing us off the sidewalk and onto the grass
Said peace to them both and stood in front til they passed
A big deal for me.
I am not far removed from german shepherds
Walking on blocks had to make sure none were loose
Recess interrupted by pitbulls and rottweilers
Made me run and find someone worth standing for.
I was someone once.
Full of potential.
Funny how potential is so much like credit.
Don’t know how good it is til it’s used up.
I used to fear peaking early.
But laying in that hospital bed
certain it was all over made me content.
If this was how it ends then I used my time well.
My regret, my reminder of failure
is to know death means I’m leaving you.
I would never give you the life we hoped for.
You’d have the stench of widowhood.
Would you remarry and find the life we were looking for?
Would suitors handle you like produce
Discover this imperfection
Deem you less choice?
Did I ruin you?
It’s the triggers you know.
So random the grief, the regret.
Nights like these I miss the breeze
You don’t know how I bleed for you
Swing from poplar trees for you
The silence so violent
The summer so arrogant
I sit and I long
I long for the breeze
Who knew leviathans brood by oceans?
The arms that nursed you curse me daily
Fountains of iniquity that raised you to fail me
Yet in spite of these frailties we thrive
with dancing shoes
with cold sweat
with short breath
Oh cactus, you stubborn fool!
A desert for your kingdom
A lifetime with no reprieve
I too dream of home untarnished
Gentry dreams make me grieve
My home has no garden
No shelter from trees
But still I find comfort
when I’m blessed by breeze