black flies conspire in the dust
of windowsills
in Birmingham, Alabama.
sweet tea lays stagnant
in the cracks of the driveway.
broken glass and ants squirm in tar,
my mother runs away barefoot
into echoes of daylight.

black flies in Birmingham, Alabama
know secrets
in the rotted railing at Nana’s house.
tornado sirens whine,
my father sits at the edge
of the bed, rips at his cheeks and says
I can’t tell if I’m alive or dead.
I shift on a black ottoman,
arms crossed, untouchable.

July in Alabama is a fluttered panic
of tiny wings trying to beat the heat
buzzing and biting and hovering.
Batting them away, I expect
I won’t talk to shadows when it’s my turn
to bring the kids to Alabama
for the summer.

July recedes and I know
I ought to shut the door
so bugs don’t get in
among shattered things at supper
acute catastrophes
my father’s calloused hand on my wrist
when he asked if he was crazy and I couldn’t
say no and my mother was barefoot and gone.

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