Upon this altar I place
the sweet honeysuckle of those
truth or dare behind the neighbor’s shed,
the color of your hair that lies somewhere
between sweet honey and the blazing butter
of fall leaves burning through that railroad
and graffiti town.
Laughter rising hard and fast,
a freight train carrying us to
pregnant too young and married
to hard-fisted men.
I place my closed heart
next to your silent misery.
Take my blindness and guilt
and all those cold days kissing boys
who tasted like cigarettes.
Let’s waft the scents of lavender
and fresh linens,
listen for the sounds of our babies
screaming on the rusty swing set,
the dirty lake lapping at their tiny toes.
The way you could whip up dinner delicious and hot,
with only scraps from those empty cabinets,
the food stamps long gone for the month.
Popsicles and sprinklers, the sound of storms
coming in like cloaked men in the night.
The taste of lemon drops and whiskey tongues,
sound of quarters dropping down deep,
pool balls clinking like bullets loading
into the chamber of a 9mm.
Heap together the damp carpet and the quicksilver bugs,
the mice shuffling through the cabinets,
that tiny, useless built-in air conditioner,
and the back porch that nobody ever used.
I place my heart pounding with so much fear.
I place the home that raised my sister
to learn not to want to live.
Take these mud pies on Plexiglas as an offering.
Let’s pray together to the gods
of old folding chairs and appreciate how they scrape
the concrete floor of the church basement and the way
that they leave permanent marks on my heart.