Two Lynchburg Poems

Riverside Park, Lynchburg

At Riverside Park off Rivermont Avenue,

Katy and I sit on a boulder viewing

the overcast valley where classmates

died leaping

from the 200-foot train trestle.

Every day my body betrays itself into

believing it’s dying, believing the pastor’s

words that homosexual boys

are destined for death.

Katy lights a cigarette as a canopy of leaves protects

us from the rain, says, “I wonder what it feels like to know

you’re going to die.” The train whistles

in the distance.

My mom pretended to die for attention

after she left me. For once I don’t feel her

absence in my body. For once

I feel kind of okay, like I won’t walk

up and down a foggy

Court Street at three a.m. in front of the Episcopal church,

crying and begging

God to make me straight so my father

doesn’t leave me too.

We walk back toward the car in the rain,

listening to the train chug pass in the distance

along the riverbank.

In the clearing between the path and the forest

a gathering of fireflies twinkles in the twilight, my prayers

burning in the trees.

My arms around Katy who, after smoking,

smells like my mom plummeting to earth

on a meteor.

A tear carves down the tracks of skin and leaps off

my jawline. My body simmers to smoke,

little fires,

this figure of ash.


[Driving away from Lynchburg]

Driving away from Lynchburg, realizing

the Blue Ridge is my home but not

where I’m meant to live,

a tiger swallowtail smears across

my windshield in powder yellow.

I too have wished to feel the painless

end, but a windshield

nebula requires a life, brittle

as the swallowtail’s chitin wings,

one the mountains can’t afford to lose.