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.

            i’ve heard

 

     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.

 

            so often

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.