all roads go north
—i will tell you, i have never been good
at directions. drag an antler through the dirt
road and call it compass. beg and barter, turn giddy-
bodied when my father finally trades a dozen eggs
to borrow much-needed hair clippers
from the tindals down the street.
slowly, we learn the language of rural mobility—
revel in the everywhereness of cotton, corn, snake-
tongues, bad roads, pissed off bugs congregating
in the rafters: waiting.
a wasp sting hurts more if you never learned
about the rapture. o heirloom. o abandoned gas station
with summer-rusted bars over the windows
we pass on the long ride home. o welt. o welt
for worry, blue-black on my grandmother’s
dying right calf—gone
like overgrown hair around my father’s freckled ears.
when i was small, i used to carry a cheap hand
compass with me every time i rode in a car—
memorized the directions to school,
food lion, grandmother’s house, the dentist.
we drove due north, the morning sun a yellow o
on my father’s side profile. i don’t know
what we were searching for then, but
i think we’ve found it now.