Eating Popcorn in My Underwear I Realize I Love You

by Tanner Barnes


Even though I’m 1168 days sober—
I’m perpetually sitting on someone’s
floor, sipping water & vodka, squinting

and squeezing my leg as someone shuffles
a dildo deck of playing cards, a plastic phallus printed
on the back of a two of hearts that neatly

folds itself into my hand. A flush. Or maybe,
I’m still a child and my uncles are smoking
long cigars and pot, playing five-card-draw

in a back room and my brother and I are
at the table. We cough. They cough. They fold,
and we win a little bit of change to empty

into the mouth of a middle school vending
machine. And although you don’t know either
of those me’s, I feel like you do, as I bend

a fresh deck we bought at some thrift store,
surely first purchased by an over eager
father hell bent on teaching his son how

to rob a man blind over a few hands of
cards. O how its stiffness caves to the pressure
of my thumb and index, concave then convex.

You and I use popcorn and pennies and our
bodies as wagers, I bust, you bust. We both 
yell blackjack. And I want you to know

every game of cards I’ve ever been dealt—
that you aren’t the first I’ve played 
this game with, but damn, do I hope 

you’re my last because yesterday
I watched my neighbor hang up a banner
that read HAPPY BIRTHDAY across

the arch of her front door. And this morning
they carried her out on a stretcher. Because
last week when our drive to the beach turned

torrential and I couldn’t see the road 
or taillight in front of me, you made me stop
at that gas station, bought me a sweet tea

and a Nerds rope and a newspaper that you
opened up and we took turns reading headlines
until the rain cleared. Because I love you damnit 

and how today you wore nothing but yellow,
head to toe, how you eat a lemon clean off the rind,
how you are set on fire by the smallest patch

of roadside flowers. Because when I told
you that I nearly lost it while waiting 
in line at Aldi— you put a bag of popcorn 

in the microwave, grabbed my fist, opened my palm 
and put a pack of cards in it because you know 
I need something to do with my hands.

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