Dear knells, dear kegs,
Dear kazoos, here is another day
I am far away from home,
The small town of Kiel, Wisconsin.
I write a friend from Odessa,
Not in Ukraine, but in Texas.
She is afraid of the countryside.
I am afraid of the city centers.
And fear, yes fear, keeps us apart,
Though there is a kinship between us.
I think of all the oil well there
And how they pump the blackness
From the softness of the earth,
The klack klack klack of fracking.
Where does a city end?
When it dips into the openness
Of west Texas? When it turns
Into the rural roads, when fear
Changes from urban to emptiness—
Where the color of the skin of the people
Change, too. The sun can do that.
The blood can do that. Gerrymandering
Can do that, too. Once, walking
In a city, Baytown, another oil town
That does not begin with K,
Like my name, like my hometown,
Or Kafkaesque, which is how I felt,
When a black man asked me for directions
And my first response was to run
And my second response was shame
And my third response was self-reflection.
And maybe good things come in threes.
And maybe terrible things come in threes.
Dear killjoy of reality, kindling of love
And hate, dear my kin, the earth
Is a kaleidoscope of colors, and yes,
Sometimes, it’s disorienting,
Confusing, and kismet. Where is home
But where the people all carry
The same scent. Manure and wildflowers.
Refinery smoke and breeze off the bay.
Sulphur and desert sun.
I try to read so many books,
To become someone else,
To shed this skin and this shame
And the kleptomania in my blood,
But plots end like cities
And I’m left with the self,
The breath, the heartbeat.
Some cities end with a border
A line drawn on the map,
In the heart, in memory.
Dear kamikazes, dear kebabs,
Dear the kneeling knees of so many,
Thank God I’ve never awoken one day,
A cockroach in a house,
Suddenly hated, suddenly feared,
Suddenly a target for the heel of a shoe.
Thank God for this body with legs to run
away and towards a home and a history
and the self. Thank God for this mind
that questions and learns and unlearns.
Thank God for this heart
With the capacity to open
with the capacity to close
with the capacity to love.