Baton Rouge

I drive home breathless, humidity in my face
as the golden streetlights meet the traffic lights, car brights
gas station prices and restaurant signs,
the engine of my Honda growls,
someone’s music in the car next to me is
making the asphalt beneath me shudder,
and I’m playing Ivy by Frank Ocean, and
I thought that I was dreaming when you said you love me,
you left napkins from Cane’s in my car which is dusty but not unclean,
and it was a straight shot from your house past the Cheesecake Factory and the hospital,
and I remember getting sushi at that little hole in the wall,
and I remember feeling empty when I sat at that traffic light,
like all those shifts at that burrito place—how they made me smell like weed and grease,
and all I ever wanted from you was to bandage my bleeding arm,
you made me throw two pocket knives into the LSU lakes,
the blade made me sting but you made me cry,
and the sound of the cicadas and the frogs outside were so loud,
I’m lost, but I take a right onto Jefferson,
the bamboo and the grass on the side of the road is overgrowing,
there’s a large oak tree right next to where I used to get therapy,
where we threw water balloons at a dumpster,
near those sidewalks we held hands but I never wanted to because we weren’t in NOLA,
in the morning there will be dew gleaming on the surface of every blade of grass,
azaleas on the lawn, but you can’t touch the magnolia tree,
we don’t have any good buses here so I had to get my driver’s permit—
you made me drive you everywhere, I had to wake up before the birds did some mornings,
September doesn’t exist here,
I never liked being outside because I have to wear more layers,
and no matter how much you told me you loved me I’d never take my binder off,
I can’t use the bathrooms in school because they won’t let me so I have to wait until I get home,
thirty minutes before I have to go back into that fucking burrito place,
Sundays are sacred and teenagers can go to hell,
my CC’s coffee order is a grande sugar-free chocolate mochasippi
because my mama said I shouldn’t have too much sugar,
it’s always too much it’s always too much,
there are yellow jackets burrowed into the lawn so I wear long pants,
my face feels scorched by the sun,
my great-aunt said I eat too many burgers and that’s why I have acne,
we stand around a table peeling crawfish and
my grandma sounds like she’s from New Jersey but drinks like a yat,
the only boats here are for crawfish, not escaping,
and you have to swim through the air,
when I was a kid I used to love catching beads
but now I’m afraid every second that some high hillbilly will call me a fag,
the ditch behind our neighborhood overflows every time it rains, and these
crickety hurricane walls only protect you so much,
sometimes I wish I could sleep on the couch so I don’t have to be in my bed,
that pocket knife is in a lake,
I used to steal my teacher’s tape dispenser blades and paper clips instead,
I thought that I loved you but I loved that you treated me human,
instead of pushing me into a puddle and calling me dyke,
I could never change in the locker room but they made me and I cried,
even my friends took pity on me and I wanted to die,
there aren’t enough tears to sing along to Frank,
I feel breathless in the humidity and I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I have to get out,
I wish I could take a left on Jefferson, but I have to go back,
it’s dark in the neighborhood—the trees overshadow everything,
I wish I could leave, I wish I could leave,
but I pull in the driveway and walk in the door and put the keys
on the hook and take off my apron and sit on my bed and sting—
these streetlights and concrete and cicadas are a façade that hides
the hate, the steel, that heavy air and those algae rivers make me drown and I can’t breathe.