Gary Jackson

Boxcars & scotch & cheap

bourbon on rocks, nothing’s neat: we steady

chasing love from ghosts over drinks half-slung.

Last night your sister offered us money

for making the long trip to visit, then the two of you

quizzed your mother on the names of the living & the dead &

corrected every wrong answer.

Your mother kept calling me your husband instead of your son.

How can family be stranger the closer you become?

We ain’t slurring yet, but well on our way

when you ask do I remember your sister’s name

scrawled in concrete in the backyard: Siri was here — 1968,

& how the yard & the slab & the house

got up & left us one day & if you had more time

you would’ve burned the whole fucking city down.

You got me here so you wouldn’t be lonely,

so one day I could conjure your mother’s best voice —

my one good trick.

It’s been forty years since you’ve spoken mother, sister

into faces that owned the words. One last round, let’s swap

another story in this shit Virginia bar without a single-

malt scotch. Grab a few tall boys for the nursing home:

your mother’s lonely, your sister’s on her way.

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