Every Song a Sigh

My family faced each Thanksgiving
with something like hope, a residual
reenactment we clung to. All of it
handily snookered by my sister’s demons.

There was turkey—all the smells
you smell at your table were served
at ours, sweet corn, candied yams,
buttery biscuits, accusations.

We’d bow our heads for the blessing,
Daddy reminding us we were built to love.
Mama would shout amen, my sister would snort,
make fun of Jesus. Mama cried.

Outside the sky stretched
and yawned, I imagined
myself a songbird, dips and swirls,
a clear rippled coolness of breeze.

When the DJ Plays Bad Company During Girls Night Out After Who Can Remember How Many Tequila Shots

Please tell me I did not squeal
at the sound of those first ear-popping
guitar licks, throw my hands in the air,
kick off my pearly pink pumps,
hike up my leggings, prance
across the dance floor, shouting lyrics,
slinging the pumps round and around
a slight bend in my high-minded pointer finger.

Say I did not sweep glassware
from the table in a leap-stumble-swoop,
lemon wedges flying pith over rind,
giggle like a toddler on too much sugar,
mount the tabletop, a cock-eyed gymnast,
proceed to twist and stomp
like a goat farmer mucking out the barn,
a twist of citrus rind twining my two front teeth.

Could we keep things righteous,
grandiloquent in style, a “ten” for effort,
call it badassery, not delirium—
a spirit-sloshed brain imagining
its defenseless body to be all jig and ja-ja,
versus the vigorous inventory of tortures
that await those poor old bones
come morning’s first dagger of surly sunrise?

KARI GUNTER-SEYMOUR is a ninth generation Appalachian and the Poet Laureate of Ohio. Her focus is on lifting up underrepresented voices throughout the Appalachian region and working with incarcerated teens and adults and women in recovery. Her poetry collections include Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio University Swallow Press, 2022), finalist for the NIEA award; A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila Na Gig Editions, 2020), winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award and Dirt Songs (forthcoming from EastOver Press in 2024). Her work has been featured on Verse Daily, World Literature Today, The New York Times, and Poem-a-Day. Find her online at www.karigunterseymourpoet.com.