permanent residence [7]

Once the flood was the most fearsome end

I could imagine—my favorite toy—


a plush Noah’s ark with a pocket for each couple

of hand-sewn animals:


my mother would woo me to sleep—


if it’s missing then it should be:


under the bed somewhere—buried at the bottom

of the clothes hamper—


it was the slow ones I kept track of:


to control the river TVA flooded

the valley—over-ripe with tar paper houses—


family graves no one had time to excavate:


grab only what you can: the cat—the lone tin cup—

a pack of cigarettes:


if it’s missing—forget the picture book:


I pulled Noah & his wife apart

to see what they were made of—by then


I knew how to swim: I was a catfish as fat

as a Volkswagen steeped in mud—


gorging by the locks—I built my own village:


the color wispy for the clapboards—

the reedy shades—the feed & seed calendar—


loosened the dead float into their rooms: remember

when they say—remember when.


permanent residence [8] 

Give us a fortnight dear—then the wampas cat:


with the others my father took to the forest—

their over-unders unloaded—their doctrine fatigues—


a full jug of hill william slop—best mash for miles:


the wampas: an upright beast—its eyes—

all wrong—a crayola wax candle


through spit watered forty-fives—the flicker

on the shanty walls:


some secrets the men left carelessly bare:


in a Chattanooga laundromat a drunk veteran

shows me the S.O.P. for folding my shirts—shows me


a tattooed rooster down his thigh—

my cock hangs past my knee—


we played quarters—drank the beast:


in the end I hoped to never see him again:


when he returned my father—unshaven—the smell

of long miles—hundreds of them—on his coveralls:


with nothing to speak of:


except to say—the woods were quiet dear

not for you—the rifle back in its place


above the threshold—still oiled & clean:


they say the thing—a thieving witch—a nosy squaw—

a spirit that can break a man—


hides in the forgotten parts of our city:


the unused aqueducts—the reclaimed quarry—

beneath the abandoned L&N station—


at night the cry of a mountain cat

tearing at her insides—just the thought is enough


to start you fretting all over:


when I was rough jawed I learned the wampas tongue—


a stench rhythm (skunk—dog—wet pelt)

hidden in the sweat lodge of my throat: I spoke


my name—whose fault is this?