I feel important driving you,
your sneakers on the dash,

our pants and shoes filled 
with the gulf shores,

feet peeling and burning
from the sand.

Your stomach aches from a screaming 
shrimp gumbo eaten too quickly,  

the chicharrones bought 
in Birmingham, and a hunger for sleep.

We left at one in the morning,
arrived at noon to see 

the placid school of deathly stingrays, 
who swim with us in the rushing green.

Satisfied, we promptly return 
to the highway.

On the Alabama red clay roads, 
windshields and headlamps are canvas—

lightning bugs mug yellow
bioluminescence in streaks

when we slam into them,
rendering the paste we enjoyed as kids.

The air is a wildering pine.
One loses themselves among:

the salty, vociferous wild turkeys,  
the sight of armadillos dodging traffic, 

snaggle toothed opossums running fence,
and absolutely everywhere—

the allergy producing plants 
known to the American South.  

           I wipe my face, blow my nose, pray
           the truck doesn’t look the same as the tissue
           glowing in the dark just as the kitsch, 
           novelty Virgin Mary in the corner 
           of my elementary school room.
           We surrounded her with silk flowers,
           and shelved her above clicking base board 
           heaters; we might have dubbed her
           Our Lady of Chernobyl.

On this springtime day
I promise I will let you down—

there is no other way to begin
but to admit the truth.

Night.  Awake in Nashville,
rosary beads turning in my sleep

as diligently as the garden earth 
you will till for our children to grow

tomatoes, zucchinis, 
and aubergines—

I am awake in Nashville afraid
to fail you, thinking 

I am finally a man.