He just had a bad heart,
I was told, while still
young enough to think of one
as that shape
he would draw
on my birthday cards, with his chickenscratch
handwriting beneath: I love you
a bushel and a peck, and a hug
around the neck.
I could sense something unsaid was being said,
or maybe the other way around,
and as a student of the intricate southern shame-language,
I knew when not to ask things like,
What was so bad about it? Instead,
I wondered for years,
until things seemed to make sense.