Around the Sun
BY KELAN NEE
I’ve got a year sober—
still I’m seeing things.
Stars where stars
On an island
with my mother in June.
We walked, swam,
cooked. I snuck out
for cigarettes. Fresh air.
More honest than ever.
I even took a shot at God:
The only holy house
on the island, beside
a lake the color of burlap,
getting lighter and lighter.
When I went in,
I didn’t kneel. The priest
took my shoulders
in his hands. Smiled,
gin and cologne. Called
me son. He didn’t see
the stars anyway,
all over the earth.
Later I showed up
at the bottle return
with a sedan-full
of aluminum and glass.
Got in line to be redeemed
a nickel at a time. Home,
My mother asked
how many cans
there were after all.
She didn’t deserve
to have an addict
for a husband,
for a son. I gave her
and sixty-five cents.
My anger, senseless,
cruel. I said,
you do the math.
There were no fish
in the lake
when my father died,
drunk and high.
Mom kept saying,
what a waste.
There were only
stars on the water,
stars from the sky.
Through the Glass Darkly
BY KELAN NEE
When I told you what my father did to himself,
you didn’t say sorry. That was all right, good even.
Instead I made the skin against your ribs
go taut, while you closed your eyes.
You fingered the dark spot on my hip.
Said some people believe birthmarks show
how you died in a past life. The smattering
of small dots on your back like buckshot. Men
were laying prone on the lawn drinking water.
They could only guess what we were doing inside.
Something tender in the way we tear each other apart.
There’s a part of myself that I’m trying to understand.
Maybe it’s simple. Most things are. My father
wanted to die, so he did. We both want risk,
and then oblivion. We give it to each other
and watch through the mirror in the other room.
I ran the sulphur out of the faucet before
filling you your glass. The morning sky here
so open it’s like an ocean hanging inches from your face.
When we showed each other the things we’d done
to ourselves we laid silent. I’m starting to get it.
Most days they’re just facts, and sometimes facts
are only sad and true. We’ve left each other under
so many skies now. You touched the scar in my face
and then my hip again. Said the spot looked like
an entire continent, or maybe the state of Tennessee.