Two Lynchburg Poems
Riverside Park, Lynchburg
At Riverside Park off Rivermont Avenue,
Katy and I sit on a boulder viewing
the overcast valley where classmates
from the 200-foot train trestle.
Every day my body betrays itself into
believing it’s dying, believing the pastor’s
words that homosexual boys
are destined for death.
Katy lights a cigarette as a canopy of leaves protects
us from the rain, says, “I wonder what it feels like to know
you’re going to die.” The train whistles
in the distance.
My mom pretended to die for attention
after she left me. For once I don’t feel her
absence in my body. For once
I feel kind of okay, like I won’t walk
up and down a foggy
Court Street at three a.m. in front of the Episcopal church,
crying and begging
God to make me straight so my father
doesn’t leave me too.
We walk back toward the car in the rain,
listening to the train chug pass in the distance
along the riverbank.
In the clearing between the path and the forest
a gathering of fireflies twinkles in the twilight, my prayers
burning in the trees.
My arms around Katy who, after smoking,
smells like my mom plummeting to earth
on a meteor.
A tear carves down the tracks of skin and leaps off
my jawline. My body simmers to smoke,
this figure of ash.
[Driving away from Lynchburg]
Driving away from Lynchburg, realizing
the Blue Ridge is my home but not
where I’m meant to live,
a tiger swallowtail smears across
my windshield in powder yellow.
I too have wished to feel the painless
end, but a windshield
nebula requires a life, brittle
as the swallowtail’s chitin wings,
one the mountains can’t afford to lose.