illustrations (scratch drawings) of two people next to each other

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 11 No. 4, "'Not No Easy Business:' Interviews with prostitutes." Find more from that issue here.

5 years from home

— for Tennessee

Every year I am away

from you the ache changes.

It was everything at first.

Midnight blues. Letters, tapes

home. Photos on all my

walls. New poems. I tried

to keep you with me at all times.


Later I reminded myself I

would return. Time was now

just a matter of time. But

I miss you I miss you came

afterward. I want your backroad

green, your soft-fingered grey,

your rain in the valley.

I cannot love this brownness.


Still later and I know I'm not

going back. The ache lingers.

More subtle and fleeting, until

suddenly I am overwhelmed with

knowing. I never look at your

pictures no, but I do look for

you in my dreams. I wonder if I

am still welcome. I, your faithless

lover, whom you never will forgive.


The Prodigal Child's Homecoming:

California to Georgia, 1980

daughter of suitcases, she comes

glittering with new clothes, eager to see

them dazed by her strangeness


& stunned by her sharpness

of words, watch them cringe at their own

soft, southern sounds, shapeless, ashamed


flies home as a queen, sleek

in her pride & dream-blind, she is

swallowed defenseless


back in the belly

the loving beast leaves her crawling

recalling herself in this house

sees only her shadow

hiding bold in their eyes


chooses one faded dress

and goes to the table, her chattering

family, the feast in her honor

slips into the seat no one noticed

was empty


beaming, believing, they pass her

cornbread and chicken