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You Couldn’t Keep Anything Down, a poem by Lindsey Priest

You Couldn't Keep Anything Down 

I like to think the baby my father 

beat out of my mother

before she married him 

left their heart behind for me 

to carry on our way out, 

giving me the start 

they knew our parents

were unable to give 

  either of us. 

My father, charming and predaceous,

impregnated, proven by the near 

dozen children wandering

alone across America, six different women.

In theory, this country had it coming. 

Being half black, I almost

cheer his fearless recreation

of brown eyes and skin,

in our first graves, those white wombs 

that have gotten men better 

and more polite than my father shot,

or worse, and without so much as touching.

Slick motherfucker, my old man. 

I want to salute him, but I am one

of his abandoned bastards. His reasons 

for leaving aren't my politics.

My mother’s body is no country.

She survived 

him, but her body looks like the earth’s

been trying to evict her for decades 

and gravity is saying “Nuh uh, not up here.”

The effect is a woman the shape 

of an old metal top: 

Wide middle, 

Heaven pressing down, Hell pushing up. 

A diamond ever spinning, 

spinning toward her points,

birthed a child she’ll never 

forgive for being born 

with a weak stomach.

Lindsey Priest lives in Kentucky and wakes to writes while her sons and husband sleep. Her work is forthcoming in
Ekstasis Magazine.