"Dinner drink" - Zach Mitcham


Summer sounds rise and fall

as if roots from the cool dirt

lift a symphony stick to guide

the exoskeleton rubbings,

religious tinnitus of sure bugs

beneath the green tops, an orange streak

like a teen's bleached hair,

not far from the lasting bark with names

of kids sixty years past puberty, graffiti

of a rural boy who carved his letters

plus another in a heart. The wind heaves

its chests of leaves, and my insides burn

with welcome cell death, like a prayer

to the second-person no one in every damn whisper,

my two eyes on time's off-beat, only opened
with the medicine of slippage, that fine hum of poisons,

and a new crease to my face, like a forest path to haunts

of hard laughs at lost jokes in rooms for smokes.

Now tires sound the gravel, beneath child faces

in the car window. Time to wash the apple

of its poison, and cut grapes in half for the safe swallow.

I prepare their meal, buzzed, remembering Charlie,

the barbecue cook who told me not to be bashful

about leering at pretty girls through the server window.

He grabbed my shoulder and told me to stare, boy.

Later, he put out his smoke              

with his fingers, tamed the fire

by callous, then wiped off ashes

and smiled, you gotta’ build to that,

son, but you best take it slow.

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