Lawless Southern City
by Jonathan Brown
My heart is a lawless southern city
like Savannah or New Orleans
where you can drink on the street,
smoke where you want
but they only take cash
and even the cops are drunk.
Lucky you. Lucky you, you tell the truth
because in this town, every time you tell a lie
a barefoot, redneck child nails a kitten to a telephone pole.
Don’t ask why. Just pony up the cash and thank the bloodline.
He’s my little cousin Jimmy. His daddy was a carnie and his mama
was a Ferris wheel repair technician.
They fucked on a dare,
still do on occasion,
Two years ago on this very same night
you and I sat on the concrete surrounding Colonial Lake.
We tossed the crusts of our PB and J sandwiches into the liquid sky.
While we ate, the moon rippled like a flag in the wind
on the surface of the night. Fish swallowed the bouncing stars.
If you’re hungry tonight, I know a pizza shop
about four blocks from here where they sell pie by the slice
and life by the drop. I used to work there. We could pretend
we own the place, drink free water and sit in the window seat,
watch people pump like good drugs
through the veins of these streets.
Even though it’s my heart
I wouldn’t walk the park alone at night.
The bus stop is no place to call home after dark.
If you’re not done yet, we could get hopped up
on truck stop Viagra, go post up on a rooftop
and narrate the night air
that whips in and out of these alleys.
Say, when was the last time you walked into the wall
flower shop down on Poplar Avenue?
That place is packed full of awkward blossoms.
Each looking down at his flimsy stem
and feeling too small to carry the weight
of such a heavy stamen.
That place, that wallflower shop
makes me want to break shit,
makes me want to take a brick
and make a splash
in a florist’s store front window,
pick up a shard of shattered glass
and carve the inscription Forgiveness is Free
on the side of the cash register
so the owner of the wallflower shop can know
that just because it sells doesn’t mean it should,
being good is no substitute for being amazing,
and people of this city would rather be wrong than timid.
I appreciate that moxie, that swagger,
that joyful noise, that riotous voice
that says don’t box me up
I am not an antique figurine.
I am not your grandmother’s love letters.
I’m a sucker punch.
I’m a firecracker in the hallway of a middle school.
I’m a pair of brass knuckles in a back pocket begging to bruise bone.
I’m a long shot.
I’m a sloppy blowjob in the bathroom backstage before the show.
I’m a damn good time.
I’m a grown ass man who won’t act his age.
I’m a warning sign.
I’m a loan shark named karma and I gonna get paid.
I’m a promise made on false premises.
You can bet your bottom dollar
this heart is gonna break.