Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet and writer. Her first poetry collection, The Taste of Your Music (Impspired), will be published in May 2021. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Impspired Magazine, Chiron Review, Connecticut River Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She and her husband live in Louisville. https://smkirby.com/
Like Freed Feet
When you see me you still tell me I’m beautiful like you used to during my inexplicable pleather pants, peach lip gloss, showing off my naturally 80s hair, out-to-hip-hop-dance days. And you still give me that damn-I-love-you look. The one you gave me when you used to pick me up all those years ago as I was covered in salad dressing, smelling of garlic, smoke, and sweat after a double shift. The Ramones radio-blasting through window-down August heat. And my feet, newly bare, holy-hell-relieved on the car floormat. Even now, somehow my with-you still feels like that.
Years ago, back in the day, slingin’ them drinks and smilin’ for pay. Upping my dumb in a sleek hotel bar, conceding my brain to a numb avatar. Had to laugh sweetly while your eyes fired lust. How you knew you could treat me while I hid my disgust. Aww, bless your heart. Ain’t you a smooth talker? Thought you could grab me ’cause you drink Johnnie Walker Blue. Yeah you. The you who’d spew out loud crass. The thicker the wallet, the bigger the ass. Oh Derby was special. The highest high-rollers strolled in drippin’ lavish with jacket-flung shoulders. Sippin’ those glasses. Knockin’ off socks. With a twist of dry wit. Dipshit on rocks. Cloud of illusions. Infusion of airs. Smoke-laden breath where corners wrought scared. But more tips came in if I drew out my drawl. Deflated my dignity. Inflated my ‘y’all’. Till last call. ’Cause tuition ain’t free. Sick isn’t cheap. And crying could wait till trying to sleep.
I am the lesson borne of mistakes. The cobblestone steps her ancestors paved. I am the refuse stained wretched-shed tears. The rough-breaking water spinning her gears. I am the woman recording her maps. Cartographer pointing to dreams that collapsed. I am the writer weaving her web. Fill-page-reminders that I’m still not dead. I am the magic taught by Galileo. The night-study-pattern still trying to lay low. I am the teacher with too much to learn. Sprung from a Hell where her blood’s been interned. I am the music singing through gusts. Freed from the locks of you-betters and musts. I am the sunlight stomping short straws. The bane of statistics. The climber with claws.