A Breath of Grace

This poem was originally published in the August 2022 issue of Anti-Heroin Chic
Ray Ray and Feather’ve moved 
from their tent inside Angel’s yard 
into Teddy’s spare room—Teddy’s the one
who gave them that bigass tent in the first place,
after seeing their small, gashed-up one, slumped 
beneath Angel’s tall and leaning pines. Now he’s told them 
come on in, he’ll drive them to Tyson, get them jobs deboning chickens— 
$15/hour, as good as it gets, as good as Target—especially since Target won’t hire 
people like them ... But Lord, this is gonna bring us all
nothing but trouble ...

Ray Ray’d asked what I thought 
before moving in their mattress and duffel— 
told him, Terrible idea, Terrible. Ted and Ray are always arguing, 
bout the quality of the stuff Ray hocks for him, bout the money Ray
owes to him—to me—to Angel. Feather kept quiet ... She can stand Ray 
arguing with another man, even getting the shit kicked out of his all-bone breast, 
if it means she can color inside with AC — 
instead of 90 degrees.

Apparently, since moving in
Ray Ray’s had to lock their door every night— 
Teddy marches in his sleep, his old Marine routine, 
going Hup Hup, thrusting his rifle up at the roof. Feather 
tried bringing in a dresser they’d found on the street, but Teddy 
said no cause it might have spirits, made them haul it to the side of the road 
by the trash can no one ever bothers 
to roll back in.

I try to leave them alone, 
paranoid bout more trouble
with the law—and why carry on 
with a gun-toting, war-torn veteran 
more than he asks of you? With a scheming 
loco chicken who calls me his friend only when
he’s bout to stack his debt with me? But my dumbass
keeps peeking in when I hear them arguing, like that missing 
hundred rack that was thumbtacked to Teddy’s wall: Teddy, man, 
you check your fridge? Then of course, Well damn! There it is! My lady 
grabs at me, Don’t get involved, when they start swinging fists on their front lawn— 
but still I run off our porch toward them with open arms, going Everybody just chill,
and offering them smokes from my new 
pack of Kool cigarettes.

Puffing, we all take a deep, gray breath ... 
Till Teddy scoffs at Ray, Soon as I’m done, 
I’m back to stomping your bony chest. Well I say,
Thank God there’s a whole pack here then. Ray Ray 
chuckles, Atta boy, Jav. Thank God. And even Teddy laughs, 
and nods, Sure ... Thank God ... Lord, until this pack’s gone ...
Thank God ... 
Thank God ...

The original publication at Anti-Heroin Chic.
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