The heat could cook uncovered heads when
the neighbors and their wealth went West
to California, seeking golden skin and sifting
for something that wasn’t worth struggling for.
Meanwhile, we worked, my Dad and I.
He, in a paint-stained T-shirt, and I,
in a pair of faded blue jeans, traversed
the town in a big, black SUV on which
we still owed money, doing those things that others
were supposed to be doing–los immigrantes–but that was us.
Later, in wine-doused words, he told tales of violence,
of boys beat bloody and men made fools always
with a great enthusiasm, like Caesar recalling conquests of old.
But for every client who cut some corner or fumed
for every fifty dollars we’d spent on supplies
we counted quarters and doled out dimes
saving for next week, just hoping for the time to sleep.
Then, when those hot summer days became
hot summer nights we headed home in silence,
too tired to talk, wanting nothing more than
an ice cold glass of water and a warm meal.
But it was on those evening drives that
I watched my father’s wallet fill and empty
as he collected checks, cashed and spent them.
And I knew every day would be that hard
and I knew we were poor but that as long
as there was work we’d be alright.
John is a recent graduate of The University of the South where he earned his BA in English and studied poetry under the tutelage of Wyatt Prunty. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his dog, Lucky.