If you have the body for it, you’re bound for the fields
to pick strawberries and coax the milk from cows,
or hired out to make baking powder biscuits and gravy,
to sweep floors and wash and fold a stranger’s clothes.
You come back on a truck after sunset, raw and ragged, covered in flour, tobacco, or clay. You come back bone tired and bruised, burned dead out and ready to be shut away.
I know all this from stories. I do not have the body for it.
I do not go to the fields, or the barns, or the parlors of other folks’ houses.
I wake up at sunrise, when they wake the rest, lie in bed
til somebody hauls me out and puts me by the window. Lord, I know
to want to work’s a foolish thing to those who’ve got a body built for working.
I was as close to born here as you can get, brought twisted and mewling
to the gates and left. Since then, I am one long echo of somebody else’s life. Every understanding that I have is scrap, is shard, is secondhand.
Distance: the space between the porch railing and the rise of the Blue Ridge.
Water: what comes from a bucket to my body on Sundays; what I open my mouth for, morning and night.
Sex: The days the girls come back smelling of whiskey, snuff, and sweat, and something sharp.