July 1, 2013 by The Citron Review
We drove the five toward Hollywood because you were bored and visiting and wanted tourism. You turned away from me in the passenger seat and said I love you less than you love me then we both looked straight ahead and later walked back and forth along the boulevard because it was something to do.
You gave me books with notes inside, hid the books in closets when you left the country, brought me a tiny paneled story from Russia, post cards from Siberia, and nothing from Peru. Matroyshka dolls were for your grandmother, one nested inside the other and you detailed the paint, the charm, the tiniest doll’s eyelashes.
Dear boy, dear man, dear desert wanderer who told me about a brother, gone, an infant sister who died in her crib, the stars your parents named after them only slips of paper with complex coordinates. You, who told me about a dream over and over, your sister hiding beneath the basement stairs of the house your parents built, the steep narrow stairs, the kind hands can reach through right next to the terribly loud furnace. Dear Matthew, this was Indiana, a summer with humid days and thick thunderstorms lightning every afternoon. We shared your room and the sheets clung to us damp from the old house and the wet air, your bed pushed against the wall. I slept on the inside.
There was this: a point when you said you liked it and I let you.
When you fucked her did you know she would love you? Did you think of her in your classroom as you graded, as you swept her hair from aside her face, the way she looked while sleeping on your mattress on the floor, how Memphis too is wet in the summer, how maybe you would meet her mother on a street corner as you walked from class to your room inside the old house? Before I left you said you were her at twenty, that I could live in Memphis too, that the kitchen and the sorted recycling, yards with full blooming magnolias, tumbling kudzu, and spider lilies and stargazer lilies and Easter lilies, that all of this was for me.
So you left me once in Colorado and I waited by the dumpsters, my friends angrier than I was. That summer we filled a plastic pool and sat on the concrete steps, our feet in the water. If you smoked you would have then. The neighbor’s dogs panted next door and we both wanted extra limes because of all the salt and how hot it was already and it was only June.
In the desert you climbed barrier fences, Do Not Cross to volcanic craters, lava tubes, cliff side caves, said take my picture now. You sent these to the mother you hated, to the grandmother who confused pie and bread, she who drank chocolate milk, whole and by the gallon, she whom you loved so much. You sent these photographs to your students, the private emails you collected, to your father as we drove toward California. The caves around the crater were lava tubes, smelled both of sulfur and of pine. Here trees had combusted, individually, others still alive, the charred ones blackened in a circle, the nearby grass still green, untouched.
Andrea Spofford writes essays and poems, some of which are forthcoming in Paper Nautilus and Gulf Stream: Poems of the Gulf Coast. Her chapbook, Everything Combustible, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. She is assistant professor of poetry at Austin Peay State University and an editor of Zone 3 Journal and Press.