Want in One Hand

Want in One Hand – Jasper Kennedy

I once heard a geologist say
the atoms in your teeth
will always reflect
where you grew up,
the milk glass of your enamel
etched forever with isotopes
you can’t shake
even if you leave,
heavier or lighter
for better or worse.

If they found my body
in a ditch,
they could tell
even with no ID
where I came from,
the Tennessee-Valley

of it all.

Now every time I bite
into a piece of cornbread
soaked in soupy pinto beans,
I think of you.

I think about the pearls
you gifted me for graduation,
after I wasted
the first shot I had
at getting out.
Sometimes I still scrape
the grit of them on my teeth
to prove they’re real.

I think about you toting me on your hip
and watching talk shows
on summer mornings,
and pulling back your bleached hair
in the pool so it wouldn’t turn green,
and telling me your right front tooth
is actually a cap,
and sending me cards
my whole first year at college
an hour and a half away,
and how I can’t even tell you
that I changed my name
to something more butch
than what you picked.

I wonder if they
pulled out my incisors
if they would look
just like yours,
same sugar-coated exterior,
same salty, shit-talking
pulp and root,
ivory and translucent
like some King James pages
you never made me read.

There is a long thread
of resistance here
as long as there has been a here,
rugged tomboys and
Dolly Parton drag lookalikes,
but I’m not really either,
and sometimes living here
feels like dragging myself
through mud
or swimming upstream,
and I’m tired.
I just want to float for a while.

Is it easier other places?
I don’t know,
but I could find out.
I want to find out.
Across decades
I can hear you say
want in one hand,
shit in the other,
and see which fills up faster.