Adam Valentine – “Lean so I can whisper” and “You better hope you don’t run out of wishes”

Lean so I can whisper

You know how he comes riding up on his tractor, shaking like his edges
can’t set, rolling past you a little since the brakes don’t work right, telling
how he’s ready to scare the grass down around the radio, the dogs
raising from piles like dirty snow, him covered like the dust tried to make
him its own, bringing a boom box, a lantern, and a bag full of batteries, saying

he could keep a petroglyph awake an extra night, the weeds reaching up
like they’ll remember the day he skipped a half-day of mowing and walked
all the way to the property line, his mouth running like he’s chewing up
the distance. Telling how he crawled up in a tomb in Lafayette Cemetery

when he was a kid and he’s been biting his tongue and kicking
his legs backwards in bed ever since? So he never was marked off
right. Get him to show you where the Parula songs are draining out
a place for him to build, where he can look out the window and spot
a Yellow Hammer singing behind the house or point to the FM dial

and name off every player on Bitty Jenkins’s second record after leaving
Memphis, which apparently, was his first record with the Roundabout
Blues Band. Where he’ll keep up with the radio like it’s trying
to get him, and the speakers will play Tip Top Davis, or a band whose

name escapes him, and he’ll listen for the DJ to speak, the whole time
whistling some other tune he can’t even remember, his face squinting like a work-
glove, where you could sit there and listen to him loading his guesses, the stars
dipping like fishing bobbers, his hair leaping like wildflowers, his quiet
buzzing like electric pasture fences.

You better hope you don’t run out of wishes

If you’ve never been so drunk the two of you could pass through
each other, your voices dripping until you can’t tell which way
they’re soaking out in, the carport no longer a thing across, a cork in your pocket
like you might plug a leak. If you’ve never heard a wine bottle clink
against your beer glass. Or set four beers on the table

and buried the rest in the coolers beside you, one of you already the taddest
bit drunker. Or took the battery out of a smoke alarm to float a tuner,
your guitar strings sharp as the first two drinks and the second two games
of darts, the big E shaking like a bridge between you. And later that night, if

you had to, unwrapped a bottle of wine that was supposed to be somebody’s
present. If you’ve never worried when a dog’s tail knocks over a bottle
because you’re lucky and the bottles are always almost empty, caps loaded
with cigarette butts, ashes slurried with spilled beer and tallboy sweat
and from where you dumped your head. If half the time you never

remember where you set a beer in the grass after you walked the woods
to see where you fell and dropped a lighter, your hair sopped in spit-gob
stars, writing wishes down your arms and hands to keep them from reaching
the ground. Green and yellow streaks like crayon marks without enough

wax to stay on a page. And you’re not even positive the last one wasn’t
a lightning bug, but you looked so long your legs hurt from leaning that far
back, nothing sticking but how thirsty you still are. If you’ve never been
so drunk you wake up and pick the words off like beggar lice, you might
not notice the sign passing out where the highway crosses your road.

Adam Valentine writes poems and roams the woods in western Kentucky. His work has appeared in The Lumberyard, The Heartland Review, The Café Review, The Meadow, and Exit 7.

Next Poet: Melissa Helton

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