Joe Wilkins

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 118 in June, 2009.

In April, I believe only in lilac, dogwood, and wisteria—such suddenness and color, indecency
and mess, always opening and opening, and fading, and falling away.

When I walk a city street, say, Louisville, or Tacoma, and there is the stink of creosote and iron
and fried fish, I believe in creosote and iron and fried fish.

That day the sky was brass and rust, that day I drove twelve hours straight and still didn’t make it
out of Texas, that day I finally pulled over at a roadside grocery ninety miles from
nowhere, on that day I believed above all things in cold beer.

One night when I was seventeen, Melissa pulled me into the lit skirt of a streetlight as the first
snow began to fall and kissed me on the mouth, and I believed in love.

Near Ash Flat, Arkansas, along the banks of the Strawberry River, our first cross country road
trip and the farthest south either of us had ever been, my twenty year old brother chased
fireflies for hours.

When the half-light fades from blue to further blue, and the lake goes stone dark, and I have
caught nothing all day, I believe, always, in one last cast.

One night when I was nineteen, Melissa called to tell me that she wasn’t sure why but anyway it
was over, and I believed in love.

That cold evening in Birmingham, lost near the steel yards, radio spitting static, I just kept

In those first days after my father died, when my mother sat moon faced at the kitchen table for
hours, I’d wake my little brother and slick an iron skillet with bacon grease and fry eggs.

Leaving Spokane, everything I could possibly call mine crammed into a short-box Chevy pickup,
I believed in open windows and wind and her dark hair in the wind.

One night when I was twenty-seven, I watched a man in a bar on the south side of Billings,
Montana, dry his eyes with his shirt sleeve and kiss the back of his own hand, and I
believed in love.

And here at my desk, staring out the window down the gravel alley, I believe in sunlight and
leaves, the scarred bark of cottonwoods, all those hearts and arrows.