A family recipe, a childhood memory, a Depression-era handout
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In April I believe only in lilac, dogwood, and wisteria — such suddenness and color, indecency and mess,
always opening and opening, and fading, and falling away.
When I walk a city street, say, Louisville or Tacoma, and there is the stink of creosote and iron and fried
fish, I believe in creosote and iron and fried fish.
That day the sky was brass and rust, that day I drove twelve hours straight and still didn’t make it out of
Texas, that day I finally pulled over at a roadside grocery ninety miles from nowhere — on that day I
believed, above all things, in cold beer.
One night when I was seventeen, Melissa pulled me into the lit skirt of a streetlight as the first snow
began to fall and kissed me on the mouth, and I believed in love.
Near Ash Flat, Arkansas, along the banks of the Strawberry River, our first cross-country road trip and
the farthest south either of us had ever been, my twenty-year-old brother chased fireflies for hours.
When the half light fades from blue to further blue, and the lake goes stone dark, and I have caught nothing
all day, I believe, always, in one last cast.
One night when I was nineteen, Melissa called to tell me that she wasn’t sure why, but anyway it was over,
and I believed in love.
In those first days after my father died, when my mother sat moon-faced at the kitchen table for hours, I’d
wake my little brother and slick an iron skillet with bacon grease and fry eggs.
Leaving Spokane, everything I could possibly call mine crammed into a short-box Chevy pickup, I
believed in open windows and wind and her dark hair in the wind.
One night when I was twenty-seven, I watched a man in a bar on the south side of Billings, Montana, dry
his eyes with his shirt sleeve and kiss the back of his own hand, and I believed in love.
And here at my desk, staring out the window down the gravel alley, I believe in sunlight and leaves, the
scarred bark of the cottonwood, all those carved hearts and arrows.
A slightly different version of this poem appeared in the online journal Evergreen Review.