Saturday, May 1, 2021

Let Me by Camille T. Dungy

Let Me 

Let me tell you, America, this one last thing.
I will never be finished dreaming about you.
I had a lover once. If you could call him that.
I drove to his apartment in a faraway town,
like the lost bear who wandered to our cul-de-sac
that summer smoke from the burning mountain
altered our air. I don’t know what became of her.
I drove to so many apartments in the day.
America, this is really the very last thing.
He’d stocked up, for our weekend together,
on food he knew I would like. Vegetarian
pad Thai, some black-bean-and-sweet-potato chili,
coconut ice cream, a bag of caramel popcorn.
Loads of Malbec. He wanted to make me happy,
but he drank until I would have been a fool
not to be afraid. I’d been drinking plenty, too.
It was too late to drive myself anywhere safe.
I watched him finger a brick as if to throw it
at my head. Maybe that’s a metaphor. Maybe
that’s what happened. America, sometimes it’s hard
to tell the difference with you. All I could do
was lock myself inside his small bedroom. I pushed
a chest against the door and listened as he threw
his body at the wood. Listened as he tore apart
the pillow I had sewn him. He’d been good to me,
but this was like waiting for the walls to ignite.
You’ve heard that, America? In a firestorm
some houses burn from the inside out. An ember
caught in the eaves, wormed through the chinking, will flare up
in the insulation, on the frame, until everything
in the house succumbs to the blaze. In the morning,
I found him on the couch. Legs too long, arms spilling
to the carpet, knuckles bruised in the same pattern
as a hole in the drywall. Every wine bottle
empty. Each container of food opened, eaten,
or destroyed. “I didn’t want you to have this,”
he whispered. If he could not consume my body,
the food he’d given me to eat would have to do.
Have you ever seen a person walk through the ruins
of a burnt-out home? Please believe me, I am not
making light of such suffering, America.
Maybe the dream I still can’t get over is that,
so far, I have made it out alive.

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