1/2/80: Knoxville
Stephen Gardner

Another year arrives without resolve.
Forty years ago my parents went insane
Whenever I kicked. I kicked and screamed all
The way out, and then for seventeen years,
Until one more free time was one too many.
Henry's hands were large and streaked with grease,
But they held the money, held the easy key
For me to could use. Of course he married me!
We kept a small apartment, double bed,
Gift furniture, box tables over the holes
In bare hook rugs. And yes, I loved him too,
For seventeen. On our first New Year's Eve
We bought cheap rum, some cheaper pink champagne,
Then talked, napped, and kissed until sunrise came.
His fingers brushed my hair; my eyes slit
To see dark moons of oil beneath his nails.
All New Year's Day I vacuumed each room twice.
The next, I cut and bleached my hair, picked out
My newest, most expensive blouse, and walked
Downtown, resolved I would not stop until
Some man with white, ironed cuffs and snowy skin
Would see me and smile. Eighteen, on the run again.
Originally published in California Quarterly
and This Book Is For Eva (Palanquin Press)

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