Devon Walker-Figueroa

GOLDEN

 

We are a kind
of sick that takes saving
up for, every day another
deposit in a bedeviled account
of history, the devil being
my father’s blood
brother who’s driven
our lot far from real
town & school & 
the possibility of being
listed in a phonebook
thick as Exodus. There
is talk of changing
our name to Golden, 
as if we were a family plucked
from the pages of What 
A Jolly Street, pastel place
where every daughter is
blonde, petti-
coated & crowned
in sausage curls, where
every son possesses
a blue bicycle & the name
Jimmy or Tommy—
anything ending
in “me.” My sister
who goes by Joey says
the house is suffering
from a curse, the kind
that holds a soul
to soil, says
a figure nightly
flickers by our gate, 
a woman who runs
at breakneck but doesn’t move
anywhere. When we moved
the first time, it was
to a town known
widely for its wild
drug fest called Country
Fair. One year,
at the Pentecostal diner,
Our Daily Bread,
a wide-eyed woman
clothed only in blue
paint sat one pew
over, ordering stinging
nettle soup, and no one
batted a lash. But I would
take blue stoners any day
over ghosts that don’t
know they’re ghosts,
but keep reminding
you they’re failing
to move toward light. My
mother has been known
to arm herself at night, tip-
toe in her nightgown down
the hall when the back-
door slams & sourceless
footsteps begin falling
toward us. (After Toro, 
our pit bull, got
a blood brother’s bat
to the head out by
the well, we promised
ourselves we were
capable of killing
our kind.) But the footsteps are
just testament to the dead
never being the kind of gone
you think they are. In Old
Testament times, people killed
each other with stones
& hungry animals & pits
full of flames, with the building
of great marble
temples. People
were probably grateful
then, to leave this earthly
kingdom, not knowing
every life is an afterlife
& heaven is just a ghost
town that never ends. When
I finally learn to handle
my mother’s re-
volver, I can only hit
the bullseye when I
pretend I’m Isaac
King, the man who shot
his face off in our barn.
In his day, when you
could pierce the dirt
with a flag & call
it yours, exiting this life
was a crime could keep you
from sleeping anywhere
sacred. There are times
I whisper to our empty living
room, move toward
the light. Find a way
out of this valley named
for a family so dead
everyone calls them Kings. 

 


DEVON WALKER-FIGUEROA is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She serves as Co-Founding Editor of Horsethief Books. Her poems have recently appeared in American Poetry Review, The Harvard Advocate, and Narrative.


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