By Larry Duncan
Maybe it was too many Saturday morning cartoons
laced with commercials for every shiny, new
thing you ever wanted and could never have.
Blame it on Teddy Ruxpin and Optimus Prime.
Maybe it was all those Golden Books you read—
stacks in the closet where you hid
when your father was drunk and your mother
swept the broken dishes into the corner of the kitchen.
Or all those Sundays swinging your legs in the pews,
the reverend shouting down the pulpit with his hand
above his head pointing toward heaven,
fingers in the form of a gun,
as you carved faces into the clouds
rolling past the arched windows of the church.
Maybe it was in the songs your sisters played
on records behind their bedroom doors
before you knew why the doors were closed,
or on the lips of the girl you kissed outside the bowling alley
the year you turned fourteen and the sweet, syrupy heat
of peach schnapps that passed from her tongue to yours
in the wild flare of passing headlights.
Maybe you were born with it
cradled in your belly like a speckled egg
that cracked open the first time you saw a train
and the thunder of rails made you cry.
But you got it bad.
It’s in the blood,
buried in the marrow,
wrapped in the delicate helix of your cells
and I’m sorry baby-boy
but it doesn’t matter how many poems you write,
or how shiny the sea shells you collect down by the sea shore
or how hard the husks you crush beneath your boot heel.
There’s no pile big enough.
No amount of God, or whisky or bloodletting
can mend such a jagged cleave to the heart.
The condition is the condition
and in every case chronic.
Appeared in Zygote in My Coffee and Crossroads of Stars and White Lightning.