Sometimes my hand shakes and I think Parkinson’s.
A jab or twinge in the side, and I think kidney stones.
I feel a shuddering from far away, and I think bombs.
Sometimes the girl behind the counter at the coffee place
Lifts a hand and tucks her hair over the arm of her glasses,
And I see the fine moleskin felt along her ear, and I want to touch it.
Sometimes I haul my own ashes. I lie abed, athirst, aflame
For some kind of sweet skin, a half-remembered crooked grin
Or snagging look, my hands ache for the curve of a hip.
Sometimes, the neighbors make noise and I want to burn the house down.
I want to break the windows in their cars and strip the bark from the trees
And kill all the dogs and shoot down the helicopters and commit such
Dazzling acts of violence that the devil would turn off his porch light
And peek through the curtains like an old lady.
Sometimes you stretch and your shirt moves over your back,
And I think about running my fingers along the range of your spine
In that valley where your back muscles meet.
Sometimes I feel a twinge in my head and think of my mother
And the stroke she had at one of the hockey games she loved.
I visit her on Wednesdays at the nursing home.
Sometimes I stand naked in front of the bathroom mirror,
And I curse time and I curse gravity and I curse science and I
Curse for the sake of cursing, because it feels good,
And I want to shave off my beard so that people will tell me how
Young I look, and I can misinterpret glances and murder another me.
Sometimes I pet the new kitten my daughter named Norman,
And think of the one I named Cool Hand Luke, the fifteen-pound lover.
His remains fit into such a tiny box.
Sometimes I remember when my father cut through a drywall screw
With a jigsaw blade that he held between thumb and forefinger.
It was cold, and his breath foamed in the blue air.
Clay Steakley was a finalist for a 2013 PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship, and received the Ruby P. Treadway award for creative writing from Belmont University. He recently returned from a long and delirious exile in Los Angeles to his hometown of Nashville, where he now lives with his wife and daughter, and works as the head of story for a design firm.