Like removing a bent nail, I bend back to last night.
Sometime when we’re both drunk enough,
not tired from whatever it is we spend
the long humid Louisiana summer days doing,
I might actually talk to you about us,
or the idea of us, before it’s forever boarded up.
Drunk, I might let something sharp slip,
the way a roofer lets a few nails roll
down a roof’s slope. He doesn’t intend
their sudden roll, yet he has so many nails trapped
between his teeth, stuffed into his asphalt stained
pants, that he ignores the few, short nails.
Then, ask why do I keep writing
about these sunburned men,
whose skin no longer blisters or peels?
How bad am I anyway at scaling
ladders with a bundle of dimensional shingles?
Ready to end up in the green dumpster nearby,
I have become unfastened from you, the sharpest nail
a steep roof has ever felt.
First published in Red Headed Stepchild
Swimming in the Hotel Pool at a Quality Inn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I Think of My Old Apartment Pool in Lafayette, Louisiana
Wandering downtown Hot Springs
in July made me sweat
like a cold beer. Post dinner, just
enough sunlight wades
into the hotel’s tiny pool, hidden
in the back, like a dumpster
by overgrown brush, trees,
metal storage sheds where
stray cats hide. On the way
out of my room, I pour
beer into a water bottle, important
as my towel and flip flops.
Down south, central air and swimming
pools, a natural pair, one to suck sweat
off your brow, the other to wet
your sorrow. I always
knew how and when
to sneak into apartment
pools. Late night swimming struck
after a one bedroom
apartment started to feel its size.
I forgot heat’s humidity I squirm
against for months.
My own apartment complex, large enough
for multiple pools, laundromats, and anonymity,
separated by a mildewed concrete parking lot, space
bar shaped speed bumps to drag
out residents and employees
who couldn’t leave fast enough.
like a lost cause, in this land of rotting,
crumbling, resolve. My last night
swimming, alone in my apartment
pool, a six-pack sprawled
on a lounger, mid-drink, an off duty cop
arrived shut the pool, a pool that never
closed before. More unexpected,
this cop, working for extra beer
money to chastise me for drinking
in the pool. This moment closed
me from Louisiana.
But this poem is not about that night,
in an apartment complex with meth labs,
lonely, chatty people, or sidewalks
that submerge in thunderstorms. It’s about
chlorinated water, encased in concrete, a place
to sit around and drink,
think about the short season when sweat
wasn’t given to skin like the sun’s hot stare.
First appeared in San Pedro Review
Originally from the hilly corner of Ohio, Mark Allen Jenkins’s poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from Pine Hills Review, Gargoyle, minnesota review, River Styx, South Dakota Review, Every River on Earth: Writing from Appalachian Ohio, and Still: The Journal. He completed a PhD in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas and currently teaches in Houston.