from The Coexistent by Amy Wright

Can you have emotions about crackers?

                                                            -Gertrude Stein

You make your own fortune, Crackers snicker, sitting by tree roots
in an interstate median. The leaves submit like ledgers on which old accounts
are being settled. The bark frays their paintbrushes.

Wee smudge-faced children want to participate and dip their fingers
into each raspberry bubble. They pinch the bark flame-colored,
get paint in their eyes and bawl. “You are responsible for yourselves,”
Crackers remind the curious little salamanders who hiccup like drunkards.

The children just want their parents to like them. Really,
they would do almost anything, but Mun & Pops just look abashed.
Maybe they can’t explain it, or maybe they don’t like them
as much as they thought when they first had them.

***

Crackers play every card but the aces. We’ll never get it,
the naïve desperadoes realize, going barefoot.
They laugh, slapping each other on the back
like soccer players, going home to their inveterate habits
where no one awaits them, facing uncertainty
bare-knuckled, scabby with data.

***

Guzzling twelve-packs in shotgun houses, Cracker neighbors spill off porches
and window ledges onto each other. Stray dog ambulances cry
down the road: “oooOOOOOOOOOnnnnoorrrrrrnnnnnAAAAh!”
Jimbo and Stevie smoke Sally’s last two Lucky’s. Unnoticed,
fifteen year old Nikki pulls her knees to chest in the desert
rose recliner her grandmother rocked her to sleep in

when she was seven.  Muttonchop comes in from third shift, flings himself
onto the sofa where a knot of bodies squirms, the molt of their captive
wings peeling like sunburned skin without freeing them.

About Amy Wright

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