Year Of The Game Face That was the year no work came, concrete year, storm cloud year. Year of hooking my finger deep in the driverside seat looking for coins. It was my weekend with my children, & I wouldn't feed them the ramen noodles I was feeding myself. Their hearts flapped & glowed like summer wings; even in winter their skin & shouting lit entire rooms. How could I not take them for donuts & pizza? That Christmas, I'd sold my music collection, fifteen thousand dollars' worth for four hundred, enough for gifts, a tree. Now, in the Year of Hiding the Car From the Repo Truck I had just enough gas left to drive to Third St, both boys excited to go somewhere new. I carried Brennan, held Colum's hand. I let him carry the leatherette box. He held it on an open upturned palm, walked slowly, in love with ceremony as he was. He said the pawn shop was filled with funny light & it was: the room, lit only by skylight that seemed to rise upward from stains in the aquamarine carpet. It looked like an underworld, like Wabash St, autumn-wet under the saurian iron limbs of the el the year I proposed & paid for both her ring & mine with student loans. I was surprised to find I still had the box seven years later & after wedging the platinum into its pinch of white silk for the last time it would take me months to stop absently pulling at the spot on my finger where it used to loosely rest with my thumb as if to spin its ghost. Colum, in the car, threaded two fingers in & out of the band, declared I had ginormous fingers. Opening & closing the box to hear the creak of its rarely-used hinges, he wanted to know why a ring needed a box when it could just be worn. Now, after handing it over to the old man behind the glass counter, he waited as it was weighed & grunted over. The old man made a show of being gracious, looking at my sons then at the ring's dull shine then thumbing the bristles on his chin before saying a number less than an eighth of what I'd paid seven years prior. It was not the last time the divorce stung in my eyes, thinking of what the ring had cost me. It should have been worth more, but I nodded to the old man, doing math in my head, planning the weekend, Colum's lips parted in awe as the old man planted one small bill after another in my waiting hand, counting & licking his fingers between each one. That's a lot of money Colum announced to the abandoned storefronts as we loaded ourselves into the car. He was still celebrating when we pulled into the gas station, the sun having finally opened its iris to clean the day of color & fill it with the pale clarity of winter afternoon, that's just a lot of money. It wasn't. The Legislature Unanimously Voted My Beard State Beard My beard has many rooms, is smaller on the outside than on the inside. I wove flowers from the dogwood & the tree of sorrow in my beard & waited for you. I brought you ibuprofen & chamomile, I stayed up late just to hear your voice, I let my beard grow & grow. I touch & touch the blood-yellow nebula on my bicep where you bit me & thanked the god I'm trying to believe in you use your teeth. I prayed for you. For grace, & my beard grew a little. I'm in the crush of the city & it's growing. Riding a shriek of metal under the river toward home & it grows. Texted you a heart ideograph & my invisible god weaved silver & white into it. I turned 40 while I was holding your hand & looking for the Big Dipper. Please please don't ever let me go. My god grows a beard or is a woman or both. I hope both. I can't win or be good all the time. But it grows like my love grows. The kingfisher & the cardinal roost in it. They fly in & keep going in, deeper & deeper. I feel I'm a fool for sending you away. I don't want to play this safe. The Rhythm Of The Saints was playing & my beard grew, grew, grows, groans, knows, goes, goes. I turned around & there you were again & you wanted to dance with me. It grew, it knew. One day my beard will be a fire that wraps around itself. I'll stay wild for you. One day my beard will be large enough to give off its own light. Bare your teeth. My blood & beard are eager sugar for you. Already I have saved & stored every one of your kisses in it. I believe in you. Us. One day, tomorrow, forever. Daylight, delight, sunrise, the sun. 10-9 I didn't really drink til the divorce opened me like gunfire, then I found myself alone nights & liked the way the water tasted like gunfire. Had a mean lover immediately after. Maybe believed I deserved no better. She loved me like a past-due bill, a hunger strike, gunfire. She loved me with a barbed-wire voice, sertraline, & her fists. I loved vodka. I filled a glass, filled another, let it fill me with night, gunfire. Fill glass. Swallow. Kiss ice. Swallow. I said no & she held me down. Tried to leave & she threw glass. Shattered. I called the cops. She raged like gunfire. I moved out & loved whiskey. Moved on & loved the river & gin. Spent money I didn't have. Starved. Loved moonshine, how it bites, gunfire. Have you ever wanted to stop feeling? Mix limeade, lemonade & blueberry vodka. Drink, repeat, drink, repeat. I tore through so many days like gunfire. I drove home after Caitlin's twenty-first, tequila sizzling in me, convinced the cop to ignore my eyes, focus on my whiteness. He let me go, my heart snapping like gunfire. Have you ever wanted to stop? I burned photos of my ex-wife & girlfriends. Cradled the Maker's in one hand. Ice clacked against ice. Gunfire. I don't remember my thirty-fifth birthday. I don't know how I got home after I left Chelsy's party in the thunderstorm over Elston Ave that night. Gunfire. I don't remember creeping Amy out. I don't remember almost dying crossing the Metra tracks on Wilson, the train roaring like gunfire. I remember wine. Wine, & wine, & wine. I can detect a varietal by taste. I remember being awakened from sleep by the craving like gunfire. If you learn why only some survive, tell me. Please. The Lord doesn't protect everyone. I don't know who to pray to except He who allowed the invention of crosses, knives, gunfire. I've lived so long in what sorrow has built. I've gone by the name sorrow gave me. I've swallowed night & its premises. Again & again. This blues. Ice against ice. Gunfire.
February 26, 2015
Three Poems – John Paul Davis