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The most beautiful place in America #13

A mother once told us        that our shadows    looked like her    children,
over on seventy-fourth street,    where   she      cursed us out for coming
home late and the whole time     your     shadow was    so        much taller
than  mine,         which     she   said   matched       her children’s     frames,
to which   she     gave    names    that I   cannot    remember     now, since
we were    both laughing     when she passed      our bodies that were not
the bodies of her babies, and I can      only     speak      for  myself,   but  I
laughed for a      flickering      worry, for      how can you know the people
you love from the      people    you don’t    when  it   is  always    so dark—


The most beautiful place in America #148

When someone ate a dead fish they found floating in the water
at Carolina Hemlocks Campground we did not tell them to stop.
They were a child, they had skin like exposed clay roads, and a wet grin

glistening full of scales. You were holding me; the sun was holding us
on river rocks while I worried that nothing would ever change,

that I would never change. I looked at you when the child started
to chew, I looked at you for guidance on how to respond to this world.
Once I got mad at my sister halfway through a movie because

she stared at my face after the jokes, the action sequences, the scary
parts. It felt bad, like I might forfeit myself on accident, like she

might learn an impression of me that was better than my own.
Now I am sprawled under tulip poplars, sassafras, so far away from her.
And this distance is no accident when I am looking for someone

to tell me who not to become, when I am looking for a witness
I can trust. Because my sister wasn’t watching a movie, wasn’t watching me

watch a movie: we were watching our lives spill out from the television,
like if you busted a secret until it was a sparkling,
downed telephone wire. Because the noise wasn’t

from speakers but from our father’s mouth. Because
only some of this is a metaphor, because when the neighbors

phoned the cops that one time it wasn’t enough, because
the screen was always too loud, too neon. Because when I punched
the tv—hard—it only hurt my teenage knuckles.

Because we were too busy trying to survive to do anything
as stupid as eating a dead fish at a campground in North Carolina.


The most beautiful place in America #24

Speeding down Ace Ventura Freeway in your passenger seat,

                I wanted to be the opposite of whoever I was:

      legs curled up, my chest holding both my knees together.


That’s how a girl in a blue flowered dress became a ghost

         holding her dress out the window like a wave smuggled home


      from the beach. By the time you glanced back at me,

            my skin glowed in the dark—Shivering. See-through. Luminous.

      When you asked me where my dress was I pointed


towards somewhere behind us without turning back.

         It was as if I’d gone searching for long burnt-out gods


      but found only my own eyes mirrored in the window; the opposite

                of an answered prayer is a naked woman in a stranger’s car;

the opposite of heaven is a starless city full of lights.


The most beautiful place in America #67

Once you bought me        mangoes
from a woman selling        them on a busy street
under an overpass      on the way out of Miami.
We were at one        of those red lights
that was so long I        wanted to kiss you,
except I’d told you        that morning not to do the same
and so kissing        you would have been a retraction.
Then mangoes,        three of them.
In a yellow mesh bag        on my lap
where I didn’t dare bite        into one yet
since it would have        made everything
sticky and I wouldn’t        have  known
how to keep juice        from trickling
across my lips,        onto my chin. Yes,
I was still        thinking of kissing you.
Then the light        changed.
And again, we were        moving.
Loud music. Windows        half-open.
Windows half-closed.        You sang
all the words to all        the songs you played
but I did not say        anything for a long while.
For example,        I did not say anything
about the weather.        Or the moon.
I did not say anything        about the mangoes,
how they stayed        inside themselves
the whole way        home. I did not say the mangoes
looked as though        they were burning.