My folks thought television
was where the devil lived,
so we didn't have one in our home. In school,
classmates made fun, said I didn't know
what I was missing, but come summer time,
Missy & I rode our bikes to Red & White
with quarters in our pockets. A nickel
bought three Cow's Tales. I bought peach rings,
mostly, except on days my bicycle was a horse –
that meant I was a cowboy, so I'd spend
my whole allowance on Big League Chew
& cartons of candy cigarettes. I thought
that's what a cowboy should buy.
Our house was at the bottom of a steep hill.
I thought it was a mountain. The first day
I rode my bike the whole way to the top,
I threw my handlebars in the dirt,
raised both arms the whole way to Heaven,
& yelled with all the might my lungs could muster:
I MADE IT!! Now I'm going home.
Joey Beichner broke my nose three times:
once playing King of the Hill, backwards,
a second with a forward pass. The third,
we were full up with soda pop
at seven in the morning & I learned
snow shovels are not meant to be used for sport.
I found my first stash of porn hidden
in a rusting ghost of a boxcar that was dying
in the woods. Rachel ratted me out to my mama
because I wouldn't kiss her. I lost
every game of Spin the Bottle
we ever played on purpose.
One afternoon I watched a porcupine
try to spike its defenses against a truck
& lose. When I got close enough,
I saw it wasn't dead yet, so I tried
to fix it with a stick. He looked so sad,
so lonesome as he went to sleep. I came home,
told my dad I was crying
cause I'd skinned my knee.
The first scar I ever got was on my chin,
tryin' to shave just like my dad. Told my classmates
I got it fighting dragons. They laughed at me,
but I knew there was a dragon hidden
in the field behind our house. No one could see it,
because it made itself look like a tree.
The second scar was on the smallest toe
of my right foot. While Dad slept on the sofa,
Missy & I poured cooking oil on the linoleum
kitchen floor, turned the whole room
into a skating rink. I fell down,
kicked my feet across the register,
it bit into my little toe so deeply
I thought there was a cave
hiding inside my body. I waited
for bats to fly out of it.
All I ever saw was blood.
I've only ever been in one fistfight
my whole life. There was a boy
who wanted to kiss my sister,
so he tied her shoelaces to a tree branch
with her still in them. A squirrel lay dead
under that same tree. He poked
its belly with a stick until something
like strawberry jam came out,
then he wiped it on my sister's shin.
In her defense, I threw a rock at him & missed.
He threw a fist at me & didn't. But
my sister's shoelaces came loose & she had
enough time to run away; I came home,
told my dad I was only crying
because I'd skinned my knee.
In my hometown, at the top of the tallest hill,
there's a cemetery full of people whose names
& stories are both forgotten. If you listen carefully,
some nights, when the sun has started to hide
behind the trees, you can hear their quiet whisper in the wind:
We made it...now, we're going home.