I am daring
love to be anything else,
to be on its best behavior wicked, to be heartache
in its prime. Love, nod yes, the noggin
of a great disease. Make chain gangs by design,
love; be phantom brawling the nursery, be darkness.
cooing shadow when a stranger
takes me into his car. Love is my spiced breath,
love cuts teeth. Love unwinds iambic vines
down unrhymed alleyways, jeweled yet innocent weeds
casually blooming the balled tongues of children.
Love dedicates itself, all ruby-sucked thumbs,
to the stewing cradle at the foot of a stranger's
gut. Tell me truth, love: why want his mouth
that toils like a bad taste after the mint
of the moon?
husk and gristle. I dare you --
reason that my mother hated to be touched.
Thirty years with a man who refused homecomings
and proms, married without mentioning love. My mother.
Every night she bleached the coaldust out of his clothes,
tasted in his mouth the coalmine, the scuttle, the coal.
You are that smoke winter, love, admit it. You waltzed
his black lung, her wallflower cancer. The ICU nurse
said my mother loved me. Love, are you an empty stare
as the heart, your celebrated domain,
latches its last door?
daring love to be anything else,
to be heathen in a red room, to be God's love
for Job, to be kicked dog. Grind your spotlight
on the daughterliest sons. Leave a little despair,
love, be what the least of us can claim.
--from "The Daughterliest
Son" by A. Loudermilk
A. Loudermilk grew up
in Southern Illinois. He received his MFA in Creative Writing
(Poetry) from Indiana University at Bloomington, where he still
teaches creative writing and composition. His collection The
Daughterliest Son won the Swan Scythe Press Second Annual Chapbook
Competition (Sandra McPherson, ed.). Loudermilk has recently
finished a collection of creative nonfiction and criticism titled
Neither Here Nor There, and is currently working on a collection
of film-derived poems to be titled Loop.
His poems, non-fiction, and
cultural criticism have appeared in Tin House, The Mississippi
Review, The Madison Review (as winner of the Phyllis Smart Young
Prize in Poetry), The Redneck Review, River Teeth, Journal X, the
anthology Car Crash Culture (Palgrave, 2001), and elsewhere. He
teaches composition and creative writing at Indiana University,
"I am daring love to be anything else," A. Loudermilk
writes, "to be on its best behavior wicked, to be heartache/in its
prime." Daring's exactly the word; these fearless and live-wire poems
portray Southern culture - and the prism and prison of gender - with
candor, rage, and an eye for telling detail so exact it verges on
tenderness. And Loudermilk gives us a world of context; here are Nina
Simone, Hubert Selby, Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra drag; evidence,
all of them, of the strangeness and fury of love.
-- Mark Doty