Sweet Jesus, I miss that lazy drawl
all whiskey & honeyburning sweet in my ear.

how my thighsquakedwhen his jacked-up Ford F-150
rumbled upbeside me at the 4-way stop,
chrome grillsplatteredwith wet dirt
from afternoonsspent muddin’down at the sinkholes,

smelling likecigarette smoke& sweat& fresh-mowed grass.
Florida held the door for meat the Citgo,
hands all grease & tobacco stained,
dirt under his fingernails.

If I could just see Florida again,
I swear I’d stop at every roadside stand with

HOT BOILED P-NUTS

spray-painted on plywood,
just so he could ladle a Styrofoam cup full for me.

This is Saturday in the South—
sleeves rolled-uphunched overa popped hood or
shirtless,sweat-slicked& chopping
wood.

I remember how Florida cut donuts in the grass
when the summer storms
turned Wakulla County into a
mudpit.

How we got sunburnt in the woodslooking for bullfrogs& rat
snakes,
then came home & stripped off our clothes,
looking for tickslike a weird, woodsy
foreplay.

I miss my Florida momma, who taught meto fry catfish
with the spine still intact,
who showed me the secret
of making big, fluffy cathead biscuits& how
proud she was
when my sun tea turned out just right.

Florida calls me ma’am,
calls me darlin’,
calls me Sweet Pea,depending on how well he
knows me.

Florida took me & a machete out in the backyard
to sort through the scrap wood
& showed me how to build
a bonfire:
taught me how to spot fat lighter,
the best wood of all,
because it burns bright & hot & glittery when it’s on the
pit
& how Saturday night bonfires give people with
nothing
a little something to hold onto.

In Florida,                             I sat shotgun as the tip of his boot
pressedcloser & closerto the floorboard,
hurtling down curved backroads
where highway patrol don’t bother to run radar.

For 5 minutes, 12 seconds,
all that matters is the storm of electric guitar,
Free Bird raining sideways from the speakers,
lost in the wind,
& how it stung like yellow
flies
as I skittered my
fingers
over the air,
like it was made of
frets.

I confess it:

I left the arms of the South& pushed West,
where they hear my drawl& shake their
head.

& though I’m surrounded
by a cold ocean & unyielding mountains,
I long for sunshine & sweat,
the only home I’ve ever been sick for.

Sweet Jesus,
sometimes I swear I can hear Florida
with that lazy drawl
that burns like whiskey
& soothes like honey,
whisper to me:

S’allright Darlin’

we’ll always set a place for you at the table.