Back to Issue Nineteen.

crimes i did not commit



I did not opt early for grief over guilt. I did not
hide under the kitchen table to eavesdrop
on arguing parents. I did not yell the word divorce
into my brother’s face until he cried
so I could paint my parents with his tears,
anything to speed the arrival of silence.
I did not learn to hate the tractor,
did not pour sugar in the gas tank
because I’d read it would foul the engine
and I was in no mood for chores.
If I did, it did not work. Not everything
we read is telling that kind of truth.
There was no hurricane. No green-black sky
sinking heavy over the hills. I am not
necessary to this story. Without me, then:
boy meets girl, etc. The usual mess
of falling in love against the odds,
and the usual outcome: the odds bear out.
Everything I know about hunger
did not come from sneak-reading
the dirty parts of Clan of the Cave Bear.
I did not find skin mags in a shed in the woods.
Did not touch myself for years.
Did not steal a neighbor boy’s bike
and shove it off the old bridge
in the spring-swelled Cahaba River.
Did not then help him look for that bike
in every driveway and open garage
for three miles along Happy Hollow Road.
Did not agree when he decided
some black kids must have taken it
though there were no black families
for miles, and ours was a road
unlikely to be seen as a welcome shortcut.
I am not expecting forgiveness. I have never
been erased from the plot. Never held
a gun. Never climbed to the top
of the rusting girders to stare down
at the quiet water, the murking rocks.
Never imagined I could change the world
by disappearing. I did not pretend
to find God because I did not believe
this would persuade a girl to touch me.
If I did, it did not work. This is not
that kind of story. This is not a confession.
This a heart growing wings and taking flight,
up above the scrub pine and water oak,
hurrying out ahead of the storm.



how things turned out



What salt does to flesh, what water, what famine—
the tales time tells about the body, & always
the same ending. Our faith
in storytelling is misplaced. I have not
considered Brian King in years, until today
when I learned across a vast distance
that his corpse washed onto the wan sands
of Gulf Shores, three weeks after he vanished
while out fishing alone. There are so many
kinds of distance. Three weeks
of wind & soak & brine & bloat: such destruction
wrought on the soft shell of a life. Brian King was 45,
father of three, divorced, & in the obituary photo,
jowly & bald, as if a middle-aged man
had swallowed the second baseman
from my Pony League team who was all whip-arm
& wheels, a threat to steal on every pitch.
I am 45. My body is not what it was. Nor,
mercifully, what it will be. In the movie version
of my life, I age like Redford, all close-up
& soft focus & golden-hued wheat fields
to halo my beauty lines. No room for drowning,
no middle-age vacation derailed by death,
this narrative destined for three full acts.
I have a Brian King story, though perhaps not one
I should be telling. There is no lesson in it. We are 15
& practice has ended for the Dodgers
or maybe we are the Cubs that season. Sweaty
& adrenaline-buzzed, we cross the wooden bridge
that spans the river and divides the park into itself
& he says, “Do you want me to suck your dick?”
I’m not sure how honest I’m being if I say
now that I was tempted then, or curious,
consumed by the various cravings of skin,
but what I say to him is, “No, I’m good,”
& he says, “Shut up,” & calls me a name.
We never speak of it again, nor of much else,
& then we threw our flat hats into the humidity
over the football field. I moved away, he became
a cop in our hometown, & eventually, I now know,
he divorced & died. How things turned out
is the only way they ever will. Burning
in his lungs, sudden stillness of his limbs;
the heart, the heart, the heart holding on. Perhaps
if I’d said yes on the bridge, he would have
punched me until my nose bled.
Perhaps it would’ve gone another way.

Amorak Huey is author of the poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015) and the chapbooks The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl, 2014) and A Map of the Farm Three Miles from the End of Happy Hollow Road (Porkbelly, 2016). After more than a decade as a newspaper journalist, he teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His writing has appeared in The Best American Poetry 2012, The Southern Review, Cider Press Review, Poet Lore, The Collagist, and many other print and online journals and anthologies. He received a 2017 Fellowship in Creative Writing from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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