A Girl from Tennessee

  1. A professor of English leaves his wife and daughter for a girl from Tennessee.
  2. It was his decision. He’d once taught her the art of writing fiction.
  3. If there’s a place the girl belongs, it may not be in the professor’s arms,
  4. or in the bars of Memphis, or apartments of New York, where I have a lease.
  5. I grew up by Dulles Airport, watching planes. Now, I live in Brooklyn.
  6. Maybe I’m the lost one. Maybe there’s no place for the girl from Tennessee.
  7. Sometimes, in winter, I force violets in clay pots. In summer, sometimes,
  8. I smoke on fire escapes. The things that happen are the things that happen.
  9. My grandmother is dying so slowly. I’ve loved men who never loved me.
  10. Maybe there’s nowhere we belong. What should I tell the girl from Tennessee?
  11. Once, I drank gin on a porch during the few dark hours in summer in Tennessee,
  12. when the cicada drawl drowns out pick-ups towing boats by houses of waffles,
  13. houses of smoke. My grandmother grew up on a farm, then moved to D.C.
  14. She married, gave birth three times, divorced, survived, lived a small life,
  15. and now she’s losing her mind. What should I tell the girl from Tennessee?
  16. The way water carves, into the land we live on, a place for itself in hard clay,
  17. we live our lives mustering strength to build a life, then breaking away.
  18. In the airport, the departed always stay departed; the delayed, at any time,
  19. in any way, could go or stay. What should I tell the girl from Tennessee?
  20. As for me, I carry my life with me as I leave each place I leave, asking myself
  21. in window-glass on my way, How much progress have you made?
  22. Not long ago, I was a kid in hand-me-downs, coming home breathless
  23. from the wet lawns of Meadow Hall and the cul-de-sacs of Monroe,
  24. carrying my shoes in my hands. What should I tell the girl from Tennessee?