I was leaning against the kitchen sink enthralled by the scent of mustard greens
And ham hocks when Ma walked in with the news.
Your grandma died. I wasn’t as close to her as my cousins.
I saw Daddy cry for the first time at the table; tears trickled down his face,
Into his beard.

What did you say to him, boy? Ma yelled.
Nothin’, he just started cryin’.
I remember her root beer-brown leather sofa
That shined in the glare from the floor model TV.
Her house smelled old as she fed my sister and me

Spicy stew beef and squares of cornbread
Marinating in the juice from the meat.
Daddy wanted us to call her Grandmama, instead of Essie V.,
But we didn’t know her like that. She “dipped snuff.”
She made my sister cry with her blood shot eyes,

Her gums eaten up with rot from the tobacco she chewed.
Ma and Daddy drove off to The Savoy Club in his “Blue Magic” bug,
Leaving us with her in her turquoise house with the tin roof.
She reminds me of pecan trees and daddy as a boy
Ringing the necks of defenseless turtles.

My sister and I used to feed the chickens.
Watch them clamber for popcorn seed.
Stop feedin’ them chickens, she’d yell as she stood out on the stoop
Throwing out a pot of uneaten ox tails, day old neck bones.
The back yard smelled like bleach.

My daddy’s Mama, my Grandma who I hardly knew,
Had Alzheimer’s Disease. She passed away in a nursing home
In Wakulla on Thanksgiving Day in 1989.
She couldn’t remember the names of her grandchildren.
A piece of my Daddy died inside when I saw him cry for the first time

At the same table we ate slices of honey-glazed ham,
Chicken and pearl rice, where sweet potato pies

Cooled under the cover of Reynolds Wrap wax paper.





shoving magazines beneath a sunken mattress.
I turn everything over, locking
it in dresser drawers made of real oak.
Poems like this are written
and read behind closed doors,
barricaded with furniture.
The men moaning in gay porn videos
are turned down to a slow simmer
in case my mother walks by.
When I was 14, I almost got caught
by my sister masturbating.
I have learned to lock doors
since then. If I feel someone
walking throughout the house
in the middle of the night,
the Play Boy Channel becomes the Food Network.
When it comes to my parents, I’m
under full investigation.
My phone conversations are bugged,
there are hidden cameras throughout
the house in every corner,
behind every mirror and cheap figurine
available. My mother waits up for me
in a rocking chair under a built in porch
asking, 3 in the morning, “Where have you been?”
There is no sneaking in this house
like Goldie Locks.
I can’t get away with a damn thing.
Friends tell me I need to move out,
but explain that to my folks
who would rather see me dead, than
go shopping for a one-bedroom apartment.
I’m convinced my dad planted a chip
in my head while I was asleep,
because I begin to scream
with a splitting headache
if I stray 10 feet away from the carport.
The restraints on each side of the bed
are in case I give them any sass.
It’s not as bad as electric shock Saturdays
or seven hell Mary’s on a pile of hot pebbles.
I’m only allowed to go to school and then
it’s straight home for p-nut butter sandwiches,
candy apples and ice-cream cup for dessert.
They tie me up making me watch hrs of basketball
until my eyes water and burn.

When it comes to my parents,
I have no common sense.
I’m a sorry sissy acting two years old.
I’m the son they never expected.
I’m a science experiment gone
horribly wrong.