Give me memories as
slow to leave as snails.

In foreign    and perhaps
fragile years    I’ll still be able

to recognize semen
and expect the smoke.

Champ’s name    causes no
stress to fill the mouth.

Quieter than fear    or any
of fear’s cousins. Vernice

takes nine specific pills
between spoons of grits

and long sips of an instant
coffee I love. Robert never

told us he was ill
though surely    he knew.

I’ve seen knowledge eat large
men alive    over a summer.

Muscadines on center
stage as the native grape.

The thick skin    the teeth
pierce    breaks to pour

sweetly across the tongue.
Look    how I hunger where

there is no hunger. Look
how pops left    before we

thought he was done. Listen
how the voice    of a dead man

can live. Pack me    a bag  
I can fit    in my heart.

Copyright © 2019 by A. H. Jerriod Avant. This poem originally appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2019. Used with permission of the author.