We drove all night, the road wrapped around
We circled the block,
settled on a stretch of yard, unlit
and blushing with dark.
You drank julips and I watched
the Pacers lose
I knew we were ending.
You eyed the backseat of the car
you imagined clearing grad-school pamphlets
the copy of Slaughterhouse you've kept at the top of the stack
I didn't know what to say.
We drove all night, and when we got bored I pushed
your skirt up and did the thing
you knew I would do.
I wish I had survived you differently. That the things you left behind were jagged
cliff faces, mountain tops hewn from God's awful teeth. But I am left with a fracture,
thin as hope. Thin as the gangly legs I put my cheek against. The fracture slipped
tonight; I felt it grind somewhere deep and mean.
Do you remember when we played house in that northside hotel room? I cried from
needing you, really cried, felt my face go hot and wet. You hugged me close, cheek
to cheek, and you whispered “you're so human, you're so human.” And it burned me up inside.
I used to watch for your car from my window, and you would park and come up the sidewalk,
beautiful in your joylessness. I felt it reflecting something in me, something cataclysmic, familial,
funereal. I have only just begun to write about you. You haven't even soaked into my dreams yet.
But you will, I know you will.
I wish I had survived you differently, the way jungle reclaims a minefield. The way we forgive
our fathers, slowly, aware of where the scars point. But I survived you like styrofoam. Like the
round bottle-bottom that sliced my foot. Which parent carved it out from my heel, and which
left the broken bottle? This was how I survived you, with questions and confessions twisting
in the dark.
John Leo has published poetry, essays, and fiction with Bareknuckle Poet and Untitled Publications. In 2014, he was featured as one of Untitled Publications' “Ten Emerging Artists You Need to Know.” He currently lives in Indianapolis, where he is hard at work on his drinking problem. contact.