My father leaves again. Returns, falls asleep
in the driveway with a warm six-pack of Pabst
like a fist between his thighs. He swears
he has not been gone that long, is not
that drunk. My mother smokes more now
than before she quit. The fire
was four years ago, we're still living
in a trailer parked behind
the charcoaled foundation of our old house.
Before it's too late I should
mention the rifle, the box of bullets
I found in the back of the closet
behind the skin mags, the vibrator.
My parents don't even talk to each other
but the body is capable of all kinds of lies.
My mother will not let me listen
to Run-DMC, which she says
is because of God but I know better.
All those gold chains, such audacity.
She doesn't know anything about me.
I steal Marlboros one at a time,
matches from the back of the stove,
I'm cutting the sleeves out of my t-shirts
these days, freaking out the neighbor kids
by spelling pussy on my Ouija board,
trying to make it sound like bragging,
telling them this summer I'm going to get
Stella from up the hill to pull up her shirt for me.
I carry my boom box everywhere,
my secret cassette of Raising Hell,
sometimes the gun. I can make
anyone believe anything. Maybe
my father hits me. Maybe the war
changed him, though I never knew him before,
so what do I know? Maybe I shoot
at squirrels but can never hit one.
Maybe I'm hanging out on the girders
of the old bridge with the volume on 10,
hoping one of these songs will piss off someone
enough to stop and give me a talking-to.
Maybe I'm setting fire to sticks
and dropping them in the water.
Maybe I killed one of the coon hounds
caged up by Stella's asshole dad
who maybe hits her sometimes, too,
maybe hurts her in more silent ways.
Maybe I hope she is as lonely as I am.
Maybe this is the most fucked-up time
in the history of the world
to be fourteen, maybe there's some poison
in the river that feeds our wells.
Maybe I can feel my skin blistering
from the inside out, maybe the bruises
are bleeding into each other. What a mess.
Maybe the gun never goes off.
Maybe it's only the music announcing
I am here. Maybe I'm shouting
my own name, over and over, synced
with the beat. Boom, boom,
like that. Boom.
"Boom Box" originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Bloodroot Literary Magazine. It can be found in Boom Box (Sundress Publications 2019).