Blue in Tuscaloosa
I did a sad sexy striptease for you
in a titty bar in Tuscaloosa.
And even though you weren’t really there,
I took off my clothes in your memory.
I swore I could feel you in that whiskey-tinged fog
between the throb of bass and drum.
For several months, I’d been a drum
to hammer in some inner ear you
crammed with wax, a fixture of that fog
of faces tucked away in Tuscaloosa.
You must have had a sudden loss of memory,
that’s why I found you laying there
that night looking like a stranger. If I’d said, “there there,”
and patted you on the head like a Choctaw drum,
would you be more than some milky memory?
(I wonder if it’s hard for you
to trip through towns like Tuscaloosa
and avoid the need to find me in the fog.)
Because sure enough, with lifted fog,
I awoke to find your outline there,
me with bird’s nest hair, and you five hours outside Tuscaloosa.
I stumbled and spun (my heart a deafening drum),
bedraggled and drugged by the taste of you.
In the following weeks, I sang “Memory”
in a topless rendition of Cats. I was Grizabella’d by the memory
of our embraces, and despite the sweet stink of fake fog
that stung my nostrils nightly, I could only smell the smell of you.
I’d trade sweat-stained dollars to find you there,
cigarette-lipped and leaning on that empty drum
of corn oil in the alley behind your former favorite titty bar in Tuscaloosa.
But there’s no such place as Tuscaloosa
anymore, just the vacant shells of strip malls in the repressed memory
of Obama-era America (for who will beat the drum
for those who cannot change?). I fog
a trolley window with my breath to forget what’s out there:
the Potemkin village of my life without you.
This morning, a fife and drum procession passed through Tuscaloosa -
some strident song that won’t recede (like you in my memory).
I hoped a fog would fall, so they’d jumble and never again march there.