He comes round to my place
time and again; but won’t stay long
a night or two at most, then gone.
Travelling light, he always finds me
in the dead of night, he always
brings a trinket—found or swiped—
remember, it’s the thought that counts.
You can’t pray a lie, he says. I know,
I tried. I tried to be civilized. He is afraid
of rattle snake skin and the new moon
over his left shoulder. But, he can catch
a catfish and fry it up in a lick; lay back
with his pipe and me for the longest hours
on a summer day. The boyish eyes that gaze
from his weary face bust my heart in half.
In sleep, he mouths the names of old ghosts:
Mary Jane, Tom, and Jim, always Jim. Awake,
he tells tales of floating down river on a raft
with a runaway slave, a duke, and a king;
dying more than once to take a new name,
with con men and preachers, all the same,
in a voice that melts butter. How he survives
in between times, I’ll never know, but I suppose
he has one like me every place he goes.