It’s when the waitress at the Cloverleaf brings my eggs and smiles
with yellow teeth across the table
that I realize how much I hate you.
There’s only the two of us in this band, and you keep reminding me
that no one really cares what we play.
The waitress can’t be more than 19 but her face is caked
with lipstick and pie flour.
I can tell by the way she leans on the table and asks for your number
that she’ll never work anywhere else.
Tonight, when you fall onstage I will lift you.
Tonight, when she appears in the parking lot behind the club
I will go as far away as I can
and break bottles against the forgotten birth place
of Axl Rose, bite my tongue
when the bed next to mine squeaks and hum “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
into the nicotine stained carpet of the Super 8.
In the morning she’s gone. Your money is gone.
I wake to you smashing a toilet seat
against the bathroom wall so I grab the whiskey and turn up
the volume on the television
as Brave Heart screams for his homeland so loudly
that neither of us can hear the other weeping.
I have ridden you like a horse and kicked the soft flesh
beneath your hillsides. I haven’t slept,
and through the car window the farms pile onto one another,
each fence intersects and the shadows of their pickets loom
like caskets for the horses
to drag along the pastured ground.
When the club owner steals our speaker we find him in the parking lot,
circle the wagons
and demand we don’t want any trouble,
but the words mean less and less with each knuckle
I rain down into the soft pallet
of his temple while you lock his arms behind his back.
After the show someone takes a picture of us together, bleeding
in front of a poster.
We position ourselves
like Morrissey and Marr: my head on your shoulder,
and you holding
a bouquet of yellow flowers someone hands you
like you’ve waited for them your whole life.
When we stop for gas I buy a hat that says, “Jesus is my Copilot”
with three confederate flags on the brim.
I plan to wear it like a talisman for protection
from the smell of chicken trucks and the cannibalistic hill-people I fear lurk
around every bend. I don’t understand this country.
There are bullet holes in all the highway signs.
When I take my sunglasses off in the checkout
the cashier bends down behind her plate glass castle and points
behind me at the bathroom, I thank her.
In the mirror my eyes look like they’ve been balancing coffee cups.
There’s a small trace of blood on everything I’m wearing. I feel proud.
I throw my sunglasses in the garbage and prod
the soft black flesh around my cheeks, push the blood
back into my skull and taste it around my teeth.
In the parking lot everything is indecipherably bright.
I put the van in drive and pretend it’s a steamroller. We’re headed straight
at the mountains and I pull my hat down low.
I park the van
along the Hudson and realize
every awful thing
that has been written
about this place is true, and I feel
like a piece
of unused machinery;
with the keys under the visor
or a steer loader.
I’m moving equipment
and then I’m drunk in a basement.
This is my New York minute: everyone listening
politely to your screams
while we pound
on our doomsday device for a few dollars
to put in the gas tank.
I want to plant a garden of dogwood shrubbery,
and prune each flower’s wick
to the ground.
I want to watch the petals
singe in city heat.
People will pay money
to know what it’s like to die
at the hand of another man, and I just keep thanking them
in the silence that occurs
after I ask if anyone knows anyone
who lives here.
Keith Kopka was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and is a graduate of MFA program at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is currently a PhD candidate at Florida State University and lives in Tallahassee. These poems are part of a longer series entitled “Tour.”