Your voice sounded like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset
and I suppose that’s what got me to listen to you the first time.
Your timbre showed me the lattice folding chairs outside my grandparents’ shed
and offered me the smell of my cousins’ cigarette smoke and the taste of Coke in cold aluminum cans.
I never thought I’d up and leave the crawfish capital, but you were able to convince me
in your voice that sounded like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset.
We went up to Long Island, like you were following my father’s journey when he got drafted,
and when I met your family, I learned how alone blood can be in a house-shaped centrifuge.
In Valley Stream I learned you’d left your spine in your childhood closet
when you declined to stand for me the first time your mother jabbed me.
But your voice, sounding like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset—
I suppose that’s what got me to stay with you, as you pretended to search for your backbone.
Years later, three months after our third son was born, you gave up the pretense of your pursuit.
In our arguments your creak turned to a chainsaw roar, raised as our boys slept in their beds across the house.
Now I can’t sit in chairs, I can’t smell my sister’s cigarettes, I can’t drink Diet Coke out of iced cans, without wincing because I always hear
your voice, sounding like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset.
[ 20150422 ]
Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. About a month before I wrote this, Spencer and I started what I’m dubbing the Shitty Simile Soundoff, wherein we try to come up with the worst similes we possibly can. Maybe a week after we started it, Spencer failed. He spat out a simile that actually sounded good, and after we tweaked it a week or two later, it became the travelling in this piece.
This is a form poem. Curtis X introduced me to the viator—a form comprising four four-line stanzas, with the first line repeated as the second line in the second stanza, the third line in the third, and the fourth line in the last—a few weeks ago, and its similarity to pantoum intrigued me. I struggled for a while to write a viator, because I kept getting stuck on the form. Spencer kept bothering me to use the “sunset” line in a piece, and I decided it was strong enough to repeat.
To keep myself in form, I wrote the poem in Excel—I would’ve probably screwed it up otherwise. Much like in pantoum, I manipulated the travelling line here to fit context as needed. It’s the same line, only tweaked slightly in each repetition. Call it a game of telephone, if you like.