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My dead uncle was once a brown-eyed boy

who dreamt of being an astronaut in bell-bottoms,


chopping lines of angel dust on a motorcycle seat

after his second marriage fell through.


But first, a hitchhiker at sixteen

screaming up the road near Clemtown,


where a stray tornado tilted the sky’s gray

onwards into pink. He smoked his teeth brown


near a hatch of frozen prairie falling

into the Tygart River dam, where Charlie drowned.


My dead uncle played a golden telecaster

that left behind thrushes of Marlboro red skeletons


in the mulched December West Virginia snow.

Fuck you for leaving me with all of this,


my dad says of him in 2017, as he quietly cares

for their dying father alone. Dad, a spark


of Copenhagen breath who’d never hit a woman,

was a Miller Lite brain acidic from a shot-up house


and a bullet put through a brotherly temple

on the Ides of March in 1985.


My dead uncle almost killed Mamaw with a ricochet;

almost killed dad just the same.


A murder of bikers once wrote FUCK YOU,



in the back of a funeral guest book;

now we only speak of curated, undeadly memories


before our bruises swell into a room

and rush into a ziplocked mouth.



Dad broke his hand in a mountain bike accident,

but we omit the patriarchal postmortem


identification of spilled brains on a patio carpet.

One of the brothers busted papaw’s stereo with a hammer


and then a belt broke each of their asses raw,

but everyone’s lent a pass to the alcoholism on a gravel throat.


I drew a picture of my history teacher naked

like Burt Reynolds in Cosmo and dad pinned me to the ground,


put all of his weight into me, and said I’d end up dead

like his brother if I didn’t shape up.


It was the only touch we ever shared.

Was I actually a bad seed growing romantically fatalistic


in a junior high wind, or just an unfortunate reminder

of his inability to make a more complete offspring.


A three-hour drive home and, again, Dad says he missed me,

and that his bloodline will die with me


if I don’t bring another body into this world.

So much desire to grow a baby inside me, it’s no wonder


these chromosomes hum womanhood.

My hand unspools into a clapboard house;


a birthright of its own trauma, sewn up and gushing

through lumped throats and turned around picture frames.


We’re all afraid of death after someone else’s makes us alone.

Whenever I was suspended at school,


I fluffed my breasts up in the mirror in hopes of staying upright.

I am a good mother but I am an even better infertile little spitfuck,


never taught how to love generously or how to love at all.

Only how to ball a fist at a slurring death threat.


Only to be filled with the delusion that Brutus’ knife

went so deep but didn’t come out the other side.