Heat Index

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

too-bland-to-be-offensive summer.


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.

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