by Kerry James Evans
Featured Art: “Ursa Major” by Madara Mason
Summer, but not cantaloupe-ripe summer,
not tomato-ripe, not watermelon-ripe,
not making love with the windows open,
riding downtown at midnight
with the top down, radio blaring
another teenage pop sensation
No, it’s burnt sod, thunderstorm summer.
Don’t lie to me! It’s a World Cup summer.
Don’t lie to yourself, Son. Get up
and drink that Dr Pepper. Another
bullets in the street summer.
Another blood-hot, angry Apollo
chasing the ice cream truck with a buck
for a Popsicle kind of summer.
When the walk gives way to dandelions,
gives way to Charlie Chaplin,
then Charlie Murphy walks into Tick Tock Tavern,
and what? Want a punch line, Punk?
You’re only smiling because you’re scared.
The kind of summer that makes you
beg for winter kind of summer.
That fear-riddled mangy dog summer,
and don’t the butterfly weed
smell like petunias to a dirty-minded Monarch?
Go on and tip your crown into the lake.
Break your heel on cobble stone
in Savannah. Hold your phone
up like an antenna and call
down your angels like the God you are.
You hear Dizzy’s trumpet
blaring like an homage to Jericho?
You hear them walls collapsing?
You see the pig’s middle split wide,
smell that vinegar? Better grab a rib
before the meat has a chance to rest.
Carolina may be calling, but
I’ve got work in the morning,
and my ancestors didn’t leave me
nothing but a bad back.
Summer-job summer. Dried-up riverbank,
records warped like tortillas spinning
like curveballs over homes filled
with teenagers in love. We’re all obvious
and ignorant, but don’t tell us.
Don’t ask us to look at something we
fully understand. We’ve got sheetrock
to hang and floors to hammer in.
I peel the same callous each night before bed.
Kerry James Evans is the author of Bangalore (Copper Canyon). He is the recipient of a 2015 NEA fellowship, a Walter E. Dakin fellowship from Sewanee Writers Conference, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Agni, New England Review, and Ploughshares. He is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Tuskegee University. Learn more at: www.kerryjamesevans.com.