Oklahoma

there was a fire in my belly like bloody gold
the day Oklahoma receded into memory
like barbed wire to soldiers and prisoners both
like flaming whips of fire to speed me on
with Saturn as my guide –
and the moon shining overhead like a bloated queen
culling the sky and calling me through
burning tiny towns away in my wake
I traveled through desert
shrub
mountain
vale.
My boots moved one thousand miles from
chill to heat to chill again
as I lay my head in a mountain town
while the singer on the radio keeps singing-
“am I strong enough to start again?
all will be forgiven.”
And I sing along with perfect cadence
to serenade that bitter, bloated queen
to chase the better one that waits for me.

I hate you, Oklahoma.
I hate you for the friends you took from me
for the mentor that died in your arms
for the truth that I wanted to find
at the bottom of every whiskey bottle
but instead found vomit and piss as my bedsheets
head aching like a freight train rumbling through –
ribs aching like I fought a hundred men –
and I hate you for the pills –
all that valium, vicodin, xanax, oxycodin and worse.
But I love you, Oklahoma.
For the family you gave me unthinking
the ones you didn’t take away
that showed me a better way than a revolver
pressed straight above my ear
to paint the wall Navajo orange.
Am I strong enough to start again?
All will be forgiven.
I’ll sing it and believe it –

Because when that family who bears you
and the family you choose later
lifts you up to the sky and pushes you on
to better things
life isn’t going to let me down again.

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