The Damned: Our Blue Yodel No. 9

It’s a long, long lane
that has no turning
It’s a fire
that always keeps on burning... 
Sure as you were born
to die.

—Bessie Smith


It’s just another requiem for Ragtown Ragers
where we’re all sons & sometimes-daughters

of part-time Baptist preachers. Our nightly high
hyphenated by Bobby Knuckles backing

his pickup too damn far up & onto this Christmas-light-
lit porch where you’d rollick over a slurred sea

of neon lighters firing up enough 305s to drown a toddler
in smoke. Goddamn if that ain’t exactly

what Tammi Miami (named on account ’cause
sure as brimstone and shitfire if she ain’t escaping

to the Magic City real soon) Goddamn if she isn’t
slowroasting her unborn son—of a shotgun

wedding in that crockpot cradled
beneath crossed arms. “Tam, you s-shouldn’t

s-s-shouldn’t,” Tyler taps his nose. Damn if he doesn’t
got more ticks than a midsummer’s deer carcass.

“Shouldn’t what, Slick?” True, Tammi likes him
well enough but damn if her gaze ain’t tempered glass.

Tyler leaning, right peach-pleased & dragging deep
he flicks the soggy slug of cigarette grassward:

“Ta-am, you shouldn’t wear a b-bandanna as a shirt.” She flips
Tyler the middle acrylic, ruby as her ruddy bandanna top.

Damn if them nights weren’t a flurry of schwagy shooting
stars across the warped wood of a thousand porch boughs.

& how we howled: pack of coyotes circling an absent moon. Feeling
we’d bent the bars of its orange irons & finally, basking in the light.


Copyright © 2019 Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.