The Book of Revelation predicted what our human minds as a whole could do, as far as creating our own destruction.—Lonnie Holley
My grandfather shot himself.
The worst part came in the months before: he’d announce
I’ll do it today, then lock
the bedroom door. My grandmother
rested her back to the frame and listened for the clicks
of an empty chamber. I don’t know
the type of gun he used. It must’ve been
a pearl-handled pistol
like the toy he gave me in a leather holster.
I’m not afraid of death
so much as I’m afraid of his blood
in mine. He tooled leather. Handmade saddles.
He’d crack walnuts two or three at a time in one fist
while I sat in his lap. While my grandmother
watched his fist. Always his fist.
His eyes: one wandering, one stuck
like its socket’d been stuffed with tinfoil. His teeth
were all wrong like pebbles smoothed by water
then cracked open with a hammer.
I won’t be buried near him, though my grandmother
rests forgiving as ever next to the box
holding what’s left of his head. I won’t be buried.
His gravestone is a clock made of the stamps
he used like extensions of his hands
to imprint leather. His gravestone is a hubcap
striking a curb, a helmet crushed
under steel, a cane propped against a crib’s rail.
Looking over the edge, I see only
a handmade saddle with tarnished silver
riding its rim. I won’t be buried near him. I won’t
be buried. I want to see mountaintops
as something other than planks to walk. What,
tell me, is below and
what comes between the jump and impact?
Here, in my South, angels and devils
wear the same color white. Jesus Christ
is a curse and a prayer. Blood gives
and stunts life.
His gravestone is a clock’s hand
pointing to me. He never saw a baby born. He never
saw my grandmother’s body rearranged like a car
on cinder blocks. The only way to go
is inside myself, to open the rusted hinges
and let the darks of my eyes illuminate
all that they contact: the sun, checkerboard
tile, an angry fist jerking for the last time.