you kept dipping into potholes when I told you I liked you;
there, that was the rub,
you against the grain of the world and my
hips against my starched jeans that I’d been
itching to get out of since I joined your never-ending journey
to god knows where

your mother was a bank teller until she got arrested one morning for all the terrible things she’d done with the money she’d stolen. you came to me crying saying that things would never be the same, and I didn’t have the heart to tell you that you were right. the next time you saw her, you said her lip was so bloodied up you could barely recognize her and you looked at me and said I looked a lot like she did. I should’ve kicked up your lip, given you a matching pair.

your dad was a strait-laced ex-army pill-popping couch rider who told me once that I looked like the candy store sign down the street come to life. you didn’t defend me at all. I let it go. I can’t imagine how angry he was when the police toted his wife away; after all those things he did for the country, this is the treatment he gets? you poked my right eye through the chain-link fence, and I called you a word I wouldn’t dare repeat today.

your sister became a cop and you always hated her for it. kept saying she was shimmying in with the pigs who took your mom, and you used to make me throw rocks at her office window because I had better aim. you never cared what came next, who’d come running towards us or which of us got in trouble (especially if it was me), you just liked the chase of it. I tried to kiss the back of your knuckles behind a cop car. you called me a word you should never dare to repeat.

I came back five years later thinking you’d maybe changed, or you weren’t so damn mad anymore. I had something to say to you, and it was damn good. I’d spent all this time writing it out so I wouldn’t stumble over all those times I tried to kiss the backs of your knuckles while you said you hated that I hung around you so much—me and my candy store clothes and pig-wrestling glare. 

but when I looked in your window, there you were on the couch. your girlfriend was somewhere, you didn’t know where. you fell asleep all drunk and sloppy while I was sitting right there asking myself what became of your dad. it didn’t hit me until I saw the chain-link fence in your front yard that he was sitting right in front of me. so I picked up a rock and threw it clean through your window.

I gnawed on my dusty knuckle the whole drive home.


S.B. Walker was born and raised in sunny South Florida where their love of literature was nurtured by a bookworm Mother, a storytelling Father, and a sunlit corner of the public library. Now they balance their passion for writing with an M.A. in International Relations, their work in each exploring the intersection of gothic Americana and actualization of the queer self. This is Walker’s first work of poetry to be published.