I come from the cracked hands of men who used the smoldering ends of blunts to blow shotguns, men who arranged their lives around the mystery of the moon breaking a street corner in half. I come from "Swann Road" written in a child's slanted block letters across a playground fence, the orange globe with black stripes in Bishop's left hand, untethered and rolling to the sideline, a crowd openmouthed, waiting to see the end of the sweetest crossover in a Virginia state pen. I come from Friday night's humid and musty air, Junk Yard Band cranking in a stolen Bonneville, a tilted bottle of Wild Irish Rose against my lips and King Hedley's secret written in the lines of my palm. I come from beneath a cloud of white smoke, a lit pipe and the way glass heats rocks into a piece of heaven, from the weight of nothing in my palm, a bullet in an unfired snub-nosed revolver. And every day the small muscles in my finger threaten to pull a trigger, slight and curved like my woman's eyelashes.
Essay on Reentry
At two a.m., without enough spirits
spilling into my liver to know
to keep my mouth shut, my youngest
learned of years I spent inside a box: a spell,
a kind of incantation I was under; not whisky,
but History: I robbed a man. This, months
before he would drop bucket after bucket
on opposing players, the entire bedraggled
bunch five & six & he leaping as if
every lay-up erases something. That’s how
I saw it, my screaming-coaching-sweating
presence recompense for the pen. My father
has never seen me play ball is part of this.
My oldest knew, told of my crimes by
a stranger. Tell me we aren’t running
towards failure is what I want to ask my sons,
but it is two in the a.m. The oldest has gone off
to dream in the comfort of his room, the youngest
despite him seeming more lucid than me,
just reflects cartoons back from his eyes.
So when he tells me, Daddy it’s okay, I know
what’s happening is some straggling angel,
lost from his pack finding a way to fulfill his
duty, lending words to this kid who crawls
into my arms, wanting, more than stories
of my prison, the sleep that he fought while
I held court at a bar with men who knew
that when the drinking was done,
the drinking wouldn’t make the stories
we brought home any easier to tell.