Bail

in pinellas, among trees
palm and pine,
this man
who is not my grandfather,
yet to my youngest brother is,
makes conversation.
he tells me about his own
arrest
just over a month ago,
some incident at some bar.
he fidgets while i use the atm
and i too, am restless—
hoping there is enough inside
to cover it.

our approach reveals
the courthouse keeping a
low profile,
a building on the lam.
we arrive and his escape is also
flawless:
a nod of the head
a wave of the hand
a promise to return,
if need be.

there are two structures here,
one for talking cures,
the other, old-fashioned,
outlined in barbed wire.

at the reception
a woman takes the cash—
it is a bucket
for my drowning mother—
she guarantees its return.
she is a thief.

while i wait
the television
vacillates,
caught between
spanish soap and
sesame street.

oh, to learn again the language
of fried donuts,
airplanes made of feet,
and you
happy for a while.

there was the day
when you gave me money
for lunch and
i walked across the madeira
bridge
to order the biggest meal
at mcdonald’s,
spilled my drink
on the floor.
a woman dried my face
with a napkin,
let the same towel drop
and gather the mess
like old, wet cinnamon.

i came back
and saw my brothers
tied to chairs with ropes
as thick as my thumbs
in a too-large house
that we could not afford,
by the water.

during the eighth hour
the receptionist walks
to where i sit
and says there’s an
act
by which the state of
florida may hold
the mentally ill
for their own protection.
your mother has been
baker acted.

she suggests that i go
home.

would that they keep you forever.

did you know what you
were doing
when you left
your youngest on
a doorstep
whose numbers hung
sympathetic
on its front,
and drove into the
balmy night?

no,
probably not.

i did not free you
that week before
moving to the east;
i walked the strand,
red with residue from
the tide
and could not touch the sea.