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When I was 12  there was a boy I liked named Keith. I remember his face and the way he smelled, but I don't remember why I liked him. At the old house we had a big backyard.  I got in trouble once for repeating a word I heard my dad use; I said that our backyard was as big as the whole fucking world. Memphis is a very green city, lots of trees, lots of bushes

I remember how the bushes smelled in our backyard.

My uncle was a paranoid schizophrenic. He committed suicide the year before, put a gun to his head, and shot. My dad and I found him together. At times a sort of catatonia ensures that we survive. I was surprised, less blood than I would have thought, more brain matter

We never talked about that day.

I liked my uncle’s craziness. It irritated everyone else and I thought that was funny. I remember when my uncle talked, it sounded like the inside of his head was "messy", like the way my bedroom looked if I forgot to put my clothes away. 

I wondered if I would ever be like my uncle. 

After school Keith came over to my house, and we went into the big as all the fucking world backyard and practiced fucking. I saw the inside of my uncle’s head on the bedroom wall

I saw no reason to stay in my own backyard.

I never doodled Keith's name on my notebook covers with a heart over the "i". It wasn't that kind of relationship

I wasn't that kind of girl.

My  dad and I are a lot alike, full of Irish passion and bluster. Quick to anger, just as quick to forgive, we blow up and then blow over. My mother nurses a grudge. My dad wasn't home the day the neighbors came about me and Keith and the bushes in the backyard. 

My mother reported my transgression to him like a Capo.

My dad blew up, and then blew over. Then he took me to the record store. For three months my mother spoke to me in clenched tones. 

I think I've tried to live up to her expectations.

A year later we moved to another house with a small backyard and fewer bushes. At 16 it started getting loud inside my head. I wondered, if I could see the inside of my head, would it look messy. 

If I could see the inside of my head, I wondered, would I be surprised.

Yesterday before the rain

I cut the grass,

filled the bird feeder

and moved two grey wooden lawn chairs


For a few brief moments

I pretended he was with me

happy that the sky was blue

happy that the small birds

were chirping in the bushes


As the clouds moved over us

I asked my ghost husband,

"why did you leave so abruptly?"


There was no answer

from the other chair,

just a Blue jay feather

and some sea shells

from last summer, strewn

on the otherwise empty table between us

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