In Ohio, I was picking raspberries off the vine,
saying amen over dinner four times.
In Ohio, I was seven years old, 2,555 days crammed
into 4’2” of God’s living, breathing creation.
In Ohio, Papa read me Poe every night, saying
nightmares can’t haunt me
if I fall in love with them.
He took it back six years later, still in Ohio, saying
Baby, if a man ever lays a hand on you again,
I swear to God I’ll kill them.
He told me never to fall in love with batter-faced boys
with blue eyes and Budweiser voices.
Don’t fall in love with nightmares, baby, don’t you ever fall in love.
Don’t fall in love in Ohio.
In Ohio, I took three hits from my best friend’s joint
and we fucked on the riverbank. Their breath was all
“always been in love with you” after,
half confessions, half insubstantial smoke.
Always been in love, so happy when you finally left that jackass, he never treated you right. I can treat you right, you know I can,
always been in love, always been in love.
My only response was to hold their hand and whisper
Baby, don’t fall in love in Ohio, baby, don’t you ever.
In Ohio, it struck me the first time
when Papa said “Baby, I’m gonna die,”
how strange it was that those weren’t his first words to me,
that I didn’t come kicking and screaming into this world
to hear Papa say “Baby, I’m gonna die. And baby, baby, so are you.”
Like we hadn’t all been born dying.