hope, 2 miles (2000)

I was raised on wheels
in a laundry basket: spray-painted white
to find grace in the nothing we had, that's what she wrote me.
My first words were white on green:
Highway 41, Route 57. Exit 24A

 Hope
2 Miles

Salvation lies somewhere
between a hurried birth
and a back road,
the pen in its hand moves quietly.

I was raised moving fast
between city streets and barren farms,
the click of beaded curtains
orchestrating
a rhythm of go-go-go
and stay awake, above an engine's hum.
That's where it started, that's where its come.

I read before the words had meaning:
ingested them nearly before
I could speak, watching letters dance in frenzied Greek.
The lower curve of "e" swung the leg of "n,"
would set it to a spin
and "u" looked up again.

It and I celebrate years the same:
when first I wrote, every "E" sat backwards,
looking behind at the road we'd passed, at things we wanted,
things we'd asked for, and never gotten.
I sketched stilted buildings with poor foundations,
held up by anemic blades of grass.

I sang colors at seven, scribed soliloquies
to the blue-green of my eyes,
the yellow of sunlight,
the red of blood that I'd seen,
it was too bright to scream.

I took refuge in words: you could scribble them fast
show up your secrets, and
destroy
them
violently
before they uttered a sound:
a genocide of ticker-tape letters brought to light,
put to rest on anonymous ground.

My childhood sins and burdens
I transformed: from poison darts to pretty
little gnats
between the third-story and the floor.
Strong magic, that.

Before I could hammer and click rusted keys,
I crayon-pencil-lipstick scrawled. When my hands were broken,
I whispered into a machine
that sounded like rats when you wound it back
and always mysteriously broke before
anyone could listen.
Long before there was this screen, there
were tarnished black keys,
the letters worn off and written back in
with a dabble of paint
that always vanished under sweaty fingers
once more and again.

I keep the yellowed pages still,
and mark the years by what letters
I had to write in.
1980:
that was the first, the "a" gone
from each line, and
sometimes
l ziness set in, nd the w s
done without, c reful hole
for keeping my confessions in.

1984:
I had to put the "e" in me myself
and in myself in never, mine, forever.
The words from those years,
with their tiny scripted "e"
and volumes stained with vodka, tears and
razor-lines of browning blood
are long and lost to me;
gone to seed in the hands of a corpse
who capitalized nothing.

After that, I held on to the papers
voraciously,
pinned close to my heart with my house key.
I clutched tight every draft, each
scribbled-out line, each
rhyme that stood
alone
without a mate to keep it whole.

I was raised writing fast under flashlit sheets and in dogeared diaries.

At 16, the hushed breath and open stare
of faces as they listened,
the lack of air
in my lungs, my feet gripping carpet
sweat pooling beneath;
and silence as loud as a drum
created
a rhythm of yes-yes-yes
and stay awake, as I gave my words voice.
That's where it started, that's where its come.


© 2000, 2004 Heather Corinna. All rights reserved.