An Open Letter to Everyone Asking Why I Always Come Back to
Oklahoma. Here, where I learn to pronounce
crayon as crown, to place broadleaf weeds
on our grass stained knees with
honeysuckles under our tongues, where I
Keep in touch with my neighbors by
sending Saturday morning postcards
of Route 66 from the gas station
a good day’s bike ride away, where I
Leave the afternoon for last minute changes,
change the coffee pot, black for the
mailman, even though he has lost
the newspaper again, spare some change for
Another church bucket full of prematurely
abandoned fountain coins and free
gospel tracts, where every travelling gun show
is held among the remnants of a book sale.
Here, where the sky turns my window sepia
before a storm—the flower shop ladies say
only God could have done that, and
I’ve forgotten the feeling before ruin.
On every street corner is a white-haired pedestrian
reminding all who will listen that our state
has seen more astronauts than any other;
our soles, more red dirt and settlement.
My parents want to visit every state park before they die.
They’ve lived here 34 years, yet every weekend,
they find new forests and mountains
to be buried in. I think I will spread their
Ashes across each X on their map. Oklahoma
does not have to prove itself to me.
Here, where passersby will be nostalgic
for a country they’ve never lived in.
I’ve forgotten who lived in my room
before I did. Someone who must have loved
watching the sky, evidence in the window
seat’s faded quilt. Someone with hands
spent unraveling worn thread, making motion
out of a world of still. Someone my older sister
might have known as Older Sister,
who carved the corners of her room
from our mother’s hipbones, who moved
with the assurance of never losing a love.
This girl must have been made from hand-
painted flowering dogwood dresses, window-
sills of last night’s stale water with window’s
reflection of glass and silk and her sisters’
faces. I want to feel what her hands
would have felt, to lie in a darkened room,
to imagine night in the speckled ceiling, to love
like a mother whose children move
as if she were already gone. Constant stop-motion
movie: the first scene would begin by the window.
Our mother would call her cupboard love,
looking down at the three of us, sister
in sister in sister. We would leave room
in our shirt pockets for butterflies, hands
too small to notice their folding wings, hand-
me-down sneakers clapping symphony movements
on the concrete steps that lined our garden room.
She might have passed as our twin, though
at dinnertime she would always insist her
dessert found the backyard porch, love
of the sunset above family. Our parents would love
her so well. But they just stay up, wringing their hands
to the rhythm of silence, an empty song of a sister
lost to a body that knew too much to keep her. I move
my lips, but I’ve lost her name, waiting at the window
until I’ve forgotten who lived in my room.