Friday, February 7, 2020

We Are Not Sisters



We drove from Missouri to Florida this past week, which required multiple stops in multiple states. This poem is a reflection on one of those stops.

We Are Not Sisters

We stopped for gas
on a winding Kentucky two-lane
beneath a canopy of Spanish moss
where winter-gray kudzu
awaited spring
to resume its consuming
of barns and buildings
trees and tension lines
anything vertical
a target for destruction.

Should we pretend we are sisters?
The vertical trajectory of our love
a threat
to the insidious increase of demands
about genitals
skin color
faith or lack of it
country of origin.

The gray-haired gas keep’s dialect
scared me;
its twang shocking
only a few hours from home.
He owned the place
and waited, bored
to assess those who entered.

Should we pretend we are sisters?

A young attendant also stood waiting
tongs ready to grasp
hotdogs and breakfast sandwiches
differently bored
nervous
straight black hair shining
brown skin surprising
in the vast whiteness.
So maybe it was silly
to ask the question:

Should we pretend we are sisters?

The women’s restroom
could service two
as long as you were close:
mother and toddler
aunt and niece
sisters.
There were no stalls
two toilets perched
in vulnerable nakedness
on the pissy expanse of tile.

Should we pretend we are sisters?

Twin silver bullets were pulled up next door
gleaming beneath the draping moss 
horses hidden inside
grateful like us
for the reprieve from the road
but like us questioning
the safety of the stop
sniffing the air
and wondering.

Should we pretend we are sisters?

I small talked the gas keep
assessing the likeliness of his stance
on two women who were not sisters
and told him about the roadside rodeo
taking place next door.
“That’s my lot!” he said
annoyed that they’d encamped
without permission
then stomped off to check out the action.

Young people footworked
around the cracked pavement
spinning ropes above their cowboy hats
tossing them toward
a horned creature
made of aluminum
and blue fabric.
Capturing the thing with a swish
and a tug
while an older man tossed instructions.

“I guess they ain’t hurtin nothin.”
the gas keep said
hotdog youth watching
silent
leery
relieved.
I went outside
and filled the tank.
eager to drive away
from a place where we had to wonder:

Should we pretend we are sisters?

A place where
white haired white men
issued rules
about how to best capture life
regulate truth
order the world
keep the universe from shaking apart
at threats like my wife and I
stopping to pee
and asking:

Should we pretend we are sisters?

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