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: