I come from red clay and trouble, molded on a wheel
in Conyers, formed and fired. Rambled at fourteen.
They call me John.
Daddy wanted me strapped and bulked.
Stablished a gym in the barn,
mostly weights and tires, squats and presses, ropes and pain.
Been training since I was old enough to bleed.
I been beat a-plenty. So's Ma.
She ain't around no more.
Folks say I'm beautiful but I don't put nothing in it.
Beauty don't taste like chicken or grits
nor keep out the mournfuls.
Only time Daddy was ever joyed was when I won that trophy.
He says we done it together.
Now I'm bigger and meaner than Daddy.
I would kill him if I ever seen him.
Awful what he done with no rue.
Some nights can't close my eyes
without them mem'ries scrounging.
I live with my Granny. I'm sixteen.
Don't give her no bother.
I still train,
bigger'n stronger every day.
Nobody beats me no more.
There are these men who give me money.
Say they just want to look at me
but that ain't the whole story.
Josie is my girl, purt and ponied, comfort-root. Seventeen
and has a Dodge. We met up at a dance in Orlando.
Couldn't resist my boogie down.
One day I ask Josie to carry me up to Reidsville.
They strip-search me before they let me in.
Daddy looks at me through the glass.
I want to ask about Mama. All he says is "you look fat".
Before I can stop myself, the cries come on.
Josie knows not to say nothing. We drive.
When we get to Lakeland I ask her to matriculate
down a dirt road, dead-ends at the lake house,
Oscar and Henry slounging
in bathing suits being served drinks by Terry in a maid's
outfit. As I come on they all rise and give me hugs.
We walk inside.
Josie waits for a short minute
then floors the gas pedal sending up plumes of gravel
as she high-tails.
I'm gath'ring up my share of chicken,
my fill of grits.