Similar Veins – A Mary Jo Salter Imitation

A shiny, bald head protrudes
From seersucker wrapping
Filling the room with slow-motion
Chuckles. My oldest uncle,
Alabama-born, catches me
With his half-nelson stare:
“Looky here – A pointy-headed Yankee
Come back down to see his kin.”

My uncle, whose head is quite round,
Whispers some time-worn
Dictum about working hard.
Unfortunately, my two out of three,
“Sweat and Tears,” makes for a
Much less manly combo.
It’s just as well. I can’t
Stand the sight of blood.

Passing the communion plate on hands
Sweating with anticipation
Or tame anxiety, I visualize the
Veins of Christ pumping out
Swimming pools of grape juice.
I cleanse my stale palate
On stale crackers and feel my sins
Washed away on a mouthful of Welch’s.

Years prior, having a yearly checkup,
I fall victim to nurse hands
Coated in cruel latex, skewering
That fat worm inside my arm.
“Medical anxiety,” I whisper
Through the static buzz, which
Moves from my ears to my eyes to…
I wake on the floor, cold, covered in sweat.

My uncle’s voice comes booming back
Saying something about blue-blooded
Southern Boys. I wonder if he’s
Had a little too much ‘grape juice.’
Bourbon in his sweat and sweat
And tears and juice and blood.
And all my work has been in vain.
When I wake, cold, covered in sweat.

About T Anderson

I am a graduate of Amherst College. I taught for a year in Harlem and now teach in Brooklyn.
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