I Love Country Music

By Paul Killebrew b. 1978 Paul Killebrew
Sometimes we blubbered through the fallout
of willful confusion in pants that didn’t fit the legs
we sawed off. We looked at each other and fell
forward and back, forward and back, a little bit
like dancing and a little like aggravated assault.
At times it seemed reasonable because it always
seems reasonable to accept whatever anxieties
or losses must accumulate in the face of what
we really wanted all along. In buildings and on
streets you could paint a few eyes on a face
and see the careless representation of brothers
and sisters making a family out of paint
and the gracious mistakes of seeing. Mistakes,
the essence of sight, could have been all we had
to go on anyway, and not for us to leave behind
what took us through the shower of dumbasses
with tact and a breath of elegance, even the hope
that later, when the streets cleared of agitated needlers
and the AC kicked on for good, we could sleep
on the clothes spangled outside the closet and find
a reason for closing the bedroom door on shadows
of pedantic radiation from thin margins of lamplight
always suggesting some other plot in some other bedroom,
tensions to splay us soon enough. And then it occurred
to you, or maybe it occurred to me, doesn’t matter, I think
actually someone called and said that anyone who doesn’t
leave something for you isn’t worth having, so maybe
now's a good time to find a dapper little high school
where everyone can be a little less civil, and blessed
with selfishness, we could part the fingers interlocked
between us, make fists and get busy. Then intensity
fermented into green books of music, loud country music,
and I love country music. It rolled around my ears
in corridors where boredom had once been so irrefutable
and heavy, and I was happy and dancing and throwing
punches at pigeons and even hitting a few. But the romantic
arc never made it over the willful lack of conviction,
some gap between the faces on the heads we saw
pass our table in the sour-faced restaurant run by those
French people, okay a gap between that and the face
in the dream you had of your father, the one where you said
he stuffed a billy club down a duck’s throat and called
for another shot of Dewar’s. I expected you to take things
when you left, but not those things. Light diffuses
evenly across the kitchen, blood through my body,
and it’s sort of funny, but our whole thing fits between
two haircuts, like a roadtrip or something. I feel now
that I’ve been digested by time, and light would pool
into terrible reflections of my own back as I backed
into a mirror or performed some other forgetful jujitsu,
an effort to lose thoughts or patterns of thought,
but the light diffuses and you walk through it,
collide with little pieces of what ate you, get angry
and write long letters about how your hand can’t talk,
how the paper is so light and effortless when you hold it
how could you even know, you couldn’t even imagine
holding this light and ridiculous thing that my hand
brushed over in patterns it will later try to forget.
Then I taped my mouth shut and tried to whistle.
Leave me alone. Don’t call. Get lost, dumpster
of confusion. I know it’s never been that easy,
that from the eyes in your skull the black plastic bags
were suffocating the trees even though to me it was
more like a ballerina’s shadow had escaped and was dancing
through the branches frantically with desperate happiness
and cause for alarm. I guess either way something unsafe
and ridiculous was happening, and I guess we knew it,
I think we even talked about it, but I’ve been a little lonely
since I started writing my dissertation. It’s about class
consciousness among people who work behind registers.
And it’s interesting, there’s all kinds of different races
and classes and income levels represented in the world
of cashiers, but at the level of values we see predominantly
two classes, the complacent and the entitled, though many
cashiers are some measure of both. The complacent
are resigned to what they understand to be their position.
They’re courteous and reliable; class issues only arise
when people are rude to them, which they tend to handle fine,
though if they say anything about it afterwards, it tends to be
a cruel and brief dismissal not only of the occurrence,
but of the entire offending person. The entitled
have a very complicated expression of social hierarchy.
Because they see themselves in transition,
usually ascending, there’s this idea that their values won’t,
or can’t, find full expression from their current position
and so they don’t feel compelled to act in a way consistent
with their values, while at the same time they may expect
to be treated in accordance with those values. When people
are rude to them, they flip out. Basically today’s been pasted
together from the leavings of some green intensity
and cigarettes crowded at the back of the passive
classrooms of the skull. Will there be coffee
on the other side? Will there be ladies to walk up to you
on a plain old shit-for-brains day and ask you of Washington
Square Park, “Why is this on the map?” I like it when people
cock their heads a little when you talk. Seems elegant.
I tell them I’m not sure, but Henry James wrote something
complicated about it. Then these nice ladies with a telling lack
of accent move along into non-history and the bulk of our hours
waiting without a mind for restitution. I would surrender
our moist telephone calls and arthritic tribes of entitlement
if I knew who to give them up to. I never go anywhere            
or do anything slow because revision is only a function
of doubt. Well okay, maybe doubt and shame. Actually,
it’s just shame. Revision is a function of shame. But enough
of these dead people, we must rise like blood in April! Instead
here I am peeling seconds off the end of my life,
glass of water, frown on face, notebook open to the parade
of minutes and obvious as a daisycutter in the desert.
No more nights in the kitchen or bowls of macaroni,
no more misdemeanors with the microwave or blue orbs
whistling into my ear, no more cats meowing
at the television, no cigarettes on the patio, no more
blessings in drag. My schedule is totally blank this afternoon.

Paul Killebrew, "I Love Country Music" from Flowers. Copyright © 2010 by Paul Killebrew.  Reprinted by permission of Canarium Books.

Source: Flowers (Canarium Books, 2010)

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Poet Paul Killebrew b. 1978

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Separation & Divorce, Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, School & Learning


Born and raised in Tennessee, Paul Killebrew earned a BA in English and political science from the University of Georgia and a law degree from New York University. He is the author of the chapbooks Forget Rita (2003), selected by John Ashbery for the Poetry Society of America New York Chapbook competition, and Inspector vs. Evader (2007). He is also the author of the book-length collection Flowers (2010).
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Poems by Paul Killebrew

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SUBJECT Living, Separation & Divorce, Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, School & Learning

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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