I Hear You, Uncle Dennis
A homeless man
Starts up every morning at 3:00 am
Outside my hotel window
Yelling Fuck over and over,
A tractor digging into L.A.’s substrata
An hour later.
Fossils, bones, trash are tossed aside,
Layers of eras covered again,
Never really hiding your dirt-poor
Your hustling for tips.
Was your wound that large?
I last heard your voice
When I’d answer the phone
Or coming out of the receiver
Joking to my dad,
Drunk, again, my mom said.
Across the gray walls
This sorrow is taking its time,
One patch of sunlight,
The warmth almost feels like Texas,
Gray scrolls swimming on the carpet around me.
And I hear you again at night, Uncle,
In sirens rising and falling,
Shots, drunken screams.
I stifle mine under luxurious pillows,
A white bridal gown of bedding.
Did you at least get to hit a scream’s earthquaking pitch
Across the wide open tar pit
And up, up between art deco skyscrapers
Where the sound vibrated beautifully?
Uncle, the gray satin curtains
Turn into the gown for your funeral
I never attended, never heard about,
Gray because your suicide was slow,
Across decades and decades
And street crossings,
Gray against the sun-soaked
Perfect L.A. weather,
Gray for tornado skies of Kansas
Where you and my father grew up.
It’s time for you to return, there, Uncle.
Uncle, are you buried on the top layer
Or are your ashes
Long scattered by Aunt Ann
In the valeting waves?
The Spanish spoken in the hallway
By the maids gets me out of bed,
Starting to carry me home to Laredo.
By the afternoon the gallery fills to the ceiling with Spanish
As a LULAC convention starts up,
Spanish cloaking me warmly,
Echoing against marble floors,
No el loco.
Uncle, I leave in the shuttle making its way
Around the filming outside my hotel,
A set of a crash scene,
Black SUV artistically dented,
Huge panning lights showing it’s fake,
Mi un muerto.
And as the plane turns out over the ocean
I see for the first time during my visit
I skim my hand over its blue corazón singing,
Horses run in the brush.
You’d think they’d be easy to spot
But only necks, manes,
Surface for half a second
And submerge, gone.
Later, I brush off
Dust they kicked up,
Coating their backs, legs.
My hand brushes their withers,
A hush-hush swishing,
Another way of touching
Your way through the world.
Suzette Bishop teaches at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. She has published three poetry books and two chapbooks, including her most recent chapbook, Jaguar’s Book of the Dead. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies. She lives with her husband and two cats.
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