Finally I returned from the outskirts of the mind,
smelling like darkness, ready to do business,
my briefcase full of small bones
and in the bottom of each shoe
a profane poem, folded and snug.
I found her living small
in a small house in a small town,
two small kids and a husband
with minute ambitions. He wasn't at home. Down
working at the factory. The kids were at school.
She was alone when I walked in,
on her hands and knees, scrubbing the floor.
She was still the color of sex
and when I walked in without knocking
she looked at me like I was 26 spiders
sitting in a chair, and her tired from standing.
—They came looking for you, she said.
Her hair hung down in her eyes.
—Told 'em some days you're hard to find.
Told 'em they'd better set out early,
before daybreak, keep the wind in their faces and not let you
get into those thickets, the cane breaks or the honeysuckle
and for God's sake keep you
away from water, told 'em you're liable
to cross and recross a stream like a frog
when there's a snake on both banks.
I told 'em your tracks are hard to spot,
sometimes you rub 'em out, tiptoe across hard ground,
move mostly at night, avoid openings.
I told 'em they ought to get a bone colored bitch,
one with eyes for the night and a nose for bullshit,
not too damn smart, but if she's pretty that'll help
and that they ought to turn her loose
near some place you've watered,
I've noticed you're liable to circle back in your tracks
to a spot you've been spooked from.
Anyhow I see they didn't catch you.
I sat down at the kitchen table,
my mind speeding along like a car full of drunk teenagers,
hurtling down red clay roads, hollering at the night,
not going anywhere in particular that evening or ever.
She stood up,
veteran of a thousand campfire carousings,
and beer bottled backyards, backseats, parents out of town,
cheap vodka, childhood bedroom, quiet now,
those thin walls, quiet now
a brother, a sister, somebody might come in,
keep the clothes on, shorts, mini skirt,
panties pulled aside and then later
in college no longer quiet, those thin walls,
fraternity house walls, no longer quiet, somebody might come in,
a brother might come in, hush now, no it's alright,
let them come in, come on in, let them come.
—You want a beer?
She was standing by the fridge, the door open.
She had on a man's shirt and a man's boxer shorts,
one piece of hair hung down in her eyes that were colder
than the beer she handed me and it was good,
that hatred between us,
it was something real and hard
in a world of soft shit,
it was something you could hold in your hand,
like a gun, like a knife, like money.
I smiled and said
—I have a career now. Writing pornography. They say I'm good.
My fingers tapped softly on the kitchen table.
She pulled her hair back.
—Well, she said, I'm not working.
She put a cigarette in her mouth.
She lit it with a match.
I tilted my beer back.
I thought of those legs underneath the table,
right across from me.
In her husband's underwear.
His shirt. His house.
I was drinking his beer.
—Guess I'll go, I said,
I was just circling back, as you say,
and thought I'd see how you were doin'.
—Yes, well. You take care of yourself.
She walked me to the door. Then she went back inside.
That floor needed scrubbing, laundry needed washing,
mouths needed feeding, and whatever she needed,
whatever ten thousand things she'd needed all her life
were as lost to her as she had always been to me,
even the first night we met, even before
and I hit the road, driving fast,
threw the empty bottle out the window,
in a hurry again, I had things to do,
dirty stories to write.