Queer in Your County (Queer in Your Nature)

Bare feet love gravel
Smooth, flat tops and jagged edges
Dirt finds a home in the crook of your elbow
As a smile finds a home on his face
And you find a home in his presence
Cuffed jeans against your unshaven legs
The thunderheads roll in for the 4th time that day
And the mud settles in your soul like barbed wire slicing air
And the asphalt lot behind the general store is cracked
But you slide your sneakers off and wade into waist high weeds
And you can’t wait to leave, but then you can’t wait to come back
And your name in childish scrawl has melted into the walk up to your front porch for the past fifteen years
And there’s a faded sticker of a smiling sun on the fridge handle
And you belong here even though you don’t want to
And the clay leaves red stains on the soles of your school shoes
And the bus always sucked, but he was there
And now you watch it roll past as you turn the other way out of your driveway at 7AM
And you passed the test(s, all of them)
And nothing felt real
Like fireflies creating crescendos of existence late at night
Like hitchhikers ambushing the hem of your sweater as you carry it home
But you don’t throw it in the wash for another 4 days
And they don’t come off, so Saturday you’re at the kitchen table picking them off one by one
And the kitchen heats up when your mom makes dinner
And his name is in your phone
And your monthly data runs out over and over
So you start to live at the library, but the AC is too cold and you long for the wind on your face
And eventually you discover that sitting by the window outside Adult Fiction A-E gives you the same signal and a view of the trail down to the river across the street
And he’ll sit with you when he gets off work
And you buy another cheap pair of sunglasses
And your 3rd grade teacher taught you words like ‘deciduous’ and ‘cumulonimbus’ and ‘tectonic’
And you jump across the creek because you’re tall enough that you don’t need the overhanging branch anymore
And he tries to copy you but it’s only his second home and the splash sends laughter skittering through your chest as birds explode away
And then you’re in the water too
And his hand presses into your back and your t-shirt sticks to your skin
And it takes hours for the damp feeling to go away
And you made the mistake of climbing the hay bales afterwards, coating yourself in dust
But that isn’t really a mistake
Because you sit there and the sun goes down and he tells you he needs you
And you tell the truth, because you need him too
And the creek runs faster in the places where you skinned your knees as a kid
And the bark on the birch trees peels so perfectly that you can’t help the harm you do
And report cards get left on the table and you’re already out the door
And you drive and drive and the trees hurtle past
Past the cemetery where your grandfather is buried
And he would hate you
And he stayed here all his life and maybe you will too
And you carry his name but you are so much better
And the connections persist even when you don’t want them
“You’re Bobby’s granddaughter”
No, I’m not.
And long hair disappears to floors and garbage cans and you’ll drive the thirty minutes for silence and a hand running over the shaved hairs at the base of your neck
And the next town over doesn’t know you yet but it’s only a matter of time, because you are loud
And here it is quiet
Like a summer night never could be, like a rabbit frozen in prayer as your bike sends dust clouds heavenwards
And your tires have air from a rusted hand pump
And your dad buys oil for your car and doesn’t make you pay him back
But he doesn’t know that he can’t say f*g
And you are me. And you are him. And you are all of us. And we are you.
And we are here. And we exist. And we prosper. And we live. And we have memories and histories and sometimes we want to forget them but sometimes they are all we have when we don’t know who we are.
When we walk for hours and end up in the same goddamn parking lot
When we climb on the rock that was so much bigger when we were little
When a particularly sharp piece of gravel sends a hiss flying through our teeth like barn swallows around power lines
When we are from and of here and when we make the decision to keep it that way
When we decide that belonging here could be a good thing
And you may walk that same creekbed without him someday, and it may come sooner than you want (for he is finding his own way, same as you)
But we hope you feel us when you trace that familiar path
And we hope you know we are still there when you forge your own branch off it
And we hope the thunderstorms remain a comfort like that hand knitted blanket your great aunt left in your house and no one ever thought to remove
And we hope you leave your own bullshit there with a layer of dust that makes the next resident shake their head
And we hope you go through the piles of hundred year old books and burn the ones that say the Native Americans gave their land willingly
And we hope you spend the 10 cents a page to print that speech by that queer activist and thumbtack it to the wall in the hallway next to the stairs where your childhood portrait once hung
And we hope you paint the living room anything other than that hideous yellow
And we hope you egg your grandfather’s grave, just once
Just because you can and you’re young and because someone ought to do it
And we hope someone finds your old baby dolls at goodwill and loves them like you did
And we hope you spend time at the antique store two towns over, though god knows your house doesn’t need any more useless antique shit
And we hope your internal compass always faces the swingset that he climbed up the side of just to show off
And we hope you remember driving at night just to sit on a hill that once fronted a dirt road and now faces a roundabout
And we hope your knees remember dirty school bus floors that you didn’t care about when you were 6
And we hope your heart remembers the sounds of coyotes at night when you are safe in bed (and even more when you are sitting on the porch swing with your knees to your chest)
And we hope you know we remember that same corner store when it had fresh paint and the post office hadn’t been built yet
And we hope you know we remember that same corner store when the Trump flag flew
And we hope you know we remember when you were born and the drive home from the hospital was too pink
And we hope you know we remember the look on your face when he decided to jump over the bonfire to make you laugh and you had to pull him away by the neck of his shirt
And we hope you know we remember all the times your bare feet were bitten by careless corners and cropped grass always too tough to grow green
And we hope you know we remember you smashing rocks together in the driveway and your hand bleeding when unfortunate timing landed it in the car door as it swung shut
And we hope you know we remember you sitting in the shade of the front yard, playing with toy horses
And we hope you know we remember you singing to your imaginary friend
And we hope you know we remember you picking the cat up by its stomach and carrying it around until your grandma saw and made you put it down
And we hope you know we remember you watching your dad use his lighter to kill the tick you pulled off your leg
And we hope you know we remember your fear of saying the words
And we hope you continue. And we hope you change it here (but only the people, not the nature of the place itself). And we hope when you join us you have provided more hope for those after you than any of us ever had to begin with.