"Exit" - Michelle Castleberry




"Exit" - Michelle Castleberry

I was a fist made of hay,
you were a Zippo in a fidgety hand.
You were a loose screen door
and I was a door jamb.
It was a windy season

I could only read your name in the rearview, 
like writing on an ambulance hood.
We waltzed to Doppler-bent 
blue siren wail right up to the crash. 
They never even called our next of kin.

You were pine sap. 
I was melted cotton candy.
People saw us and said, “Y’all a mess.”

We were the couple voted 
most likely to secede.
My friends wore black to the wedding.
You were a missionary, I was pagan.
We remain so to this day.

I was a pane of glass at a peep show.
You were a regular. 
I kept thinking you were looking
at me, not through. 
I wore your fingerprints like evidence.
They threw the case out in court.

You were a thunderhead, 
swollen with hail and rain.
I was a pilot in a cropduster 
loaded full of silver iodide.
Everyone but us took cover.

Don’t get me wrong,
I was no picnic, but accounts vary,
from feast to famine.

It takes a village to tango
in a ring of family trees
full of ancestors, hunkered
like buzzards that rustle
and cough as they watch 
the dance.

This is not an apology.
nor a levy of charges.
Now I know I am water-soaked pine bough
at the edge of a burning field.
Alive in purpose, I raise
and ode in resin and smoke.

Love can read my signal now.
I can laugh a barnyard and
he can laugh a carousel.
I don’t fight anymore, but I have
punched wrist-deep into
a bucket of honey. 
From that I learned that,
contrary to prior belief
that sweetness can last, 
maybe even forever.
We go easy from buzz to blood sugar 
to bones knit like woolen stone.
Both comfort and foundation.

The back then is gone
but I remember.
This is not a pain inventory.
This is a thank you note
from an exorcist to all the ghosts
from the friendly to feral
as they cakewalk out 
of the house of my heart.

Be well, good luck, and don’t forget your things.


(Featured reader Michelle Castleberry brings "the world's slowest poetry tour" back home to Athens at September's Word of Mouth open mic, this Wednesday night upstairs at the Globe.)

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