September 13th, 1990 by Kaleb Cook

Friends by Natalie Voelker

September 13th, 1990

My mother was sixteen now and sobered dry
not an hour before, and my father had finished
hundreds of Marlboro reds before they ever
thought about me. Two weeks out, and maybe
they were in love, even after he pulled away from her
to step outside and smoke his stubs,
she was still just a missing face on a bulletin board
in the county sheriff’s office, the 76
gas station, her mother’s front door.
Running away is never a choice. She just
didn’t see her pale-copper skin
for what it really was, or understand
the way it never lit up like the burning of a world
at the end of a cigarette. She knew nothing
of hymns and bloodsong, or why her daddy
didn’t need her like he needed his blues
or a bottle of Hennessy. She was curled
deep into her stomach like a fossil.
My father waited until she took the plaid coat
from his hands, and he wore her hair
around his calloused fingertips, wondering
what snow feels like in Angola.
The Santa Ana hooked their hands
and mouths together, wrung them out
into firewood and salt. Bush Sr. was still
sanding down his poker face two years in,
and the Gulf War had my father’s feet flanked
to an empty grave, to headlines, draft
notices, hundreds of soldiers on an American
ship. Quietly, my mother took her daddy’s post, a bar stool
at the Maple Leaf, and drank the gulf sea
whole and for her own, his creole blood pooling
up through her arms and lips, everywhere,
bursting into a New Orleans coast.

Kaleb Cook

Kaleb Cook has been struggling to find a voice for nearly ten years. He writes poetry as a means not only to understand the trauma and abuse he and the women of his family have been through, but to shed light on the men who have caused it. His work has been featured in The Finger and an upcoming issue of the Acorn Review.