"The only real battle in life is between hanging on and letting go."
[after a half-hearted suicide attempt at age 13]
When Daddy comes in, he carries you to bed. Is there anything you feel like you could eat, Pokey? Anything at all?
All you can imagine putting in your mouth is a cold plum, one with really tight skin on the outside but gum-shocking sweetness inside. And he and your mother discuss where he might find some this late in the season. Mother says hell I don’t know. Further north, I’d guess.
The next morning, you wake up in your bed and sit up. Mother says, Pete, I think she’s up. He hollers in, You ready for breakfast, Pokey. Then he comes in grinning, still in his work clothes from the night before. He’s holding a farm bushel. The plums he empties onto the bed river toward you through folds in the quilt. If you stacked them up, they’d fill the deepest bin at the Piggly Wiggly.
Damned if I didn’t get the urge to drive to Arkansas last night, he says.
Your mother stands behind him saying he’s pure USDA crazy.
Fort Smith, Arkansas. Found a roadside stand out there with a feller selling plums. And I says, Buddy, I got a little girl sick back in Texas. She’s got a hanker for plums and ain’t nothing else gonna do.
It’s when you sink your teeth into the plum that you make a promise. The skin is still warm from riding in the sun in Daddy’s truck, and the nectar runs down your chin.
And you snap out of it. Or are snapped out of it. Never again will you lay a hand against yourself, not so long as there are plums to eat and somebody-anybody-who gives enough of a damn to haul them to you. So long as you bear the least nibblet of love for any other creature in this dark world, though in love portions are never stingy. There are no smidgens or pinches, only rolling abundance. That’s how you acquire the resolution for survival that the coming years are about to demand. You don’t earn it. It’s given."
"You tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake…You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that."
Words escape me like
runaway shadows to hide
in the dusty corners that
once held your memory.
Darling I have stopped
dedicating my life to you,
these words I no longer
sign with the past
nor do I seal them with
an ounce of honesty,
for each verse is an echo
of a memory as distant
as the reasons why I
ever loved you.
Language is frigid,
each letter an icicle
over love’s diction.
Your name threatens
to draw blood,
and these words
hold no forgiveness.