Devin Kelly is an MFA student at Sarah Lawrence College, where he serves as the nonfiction editor of LUMINA. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, Armchair/Shotgun, Post Road, RATTLE, The Millions, Appalachian Heritage, Midwestern Gothic, The Adirondack Review, and more, and his essay “Love Innings" was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series, teaches Creative Writing and English classes to high schoolers in Queens, and lives in Harlem. You can find him on twitter @themoneyiowe.
Reasons to Quit
after Terrance Hayes
When I finally move from the backseat
to the front, my pops thumbs the knob
and turns through the songs of Willie Nelson.
He never promised to leave me anything.
Not the monogrammed cowboy boots
he can’t fit a foot inside. Not the slick roads
we travel this night to look for mom.
When no one is awake, it sometimes seems
you have been given a second chance.
Not because the shadows have come
to darken a world for you to hide in, but because
for a bare millisecond you are bathed
in the glow of a streetlight you pass under
and you wonder if your pops will die
before you are ready. Mom is out there
somewhere. We find her later, asleep
in the backseat of her car, thirty miles
northeast of the city. And nothing
will wake her. Not the tires slick
wicking on the slick roads. Not the mumbled
groan of Willie singing we keep rollin
down the fast lane, two young men feelin
no pain. Years later, my pops will tell me
there are no reasons to quit, just before
I toe a line and ready myself to run
across a field. But tonight, before we
find her, pops pinches the hairs
on my chubby legs and moans joking
with the song he might’ve once
fell crying asleep to and the roads
turn along the creek with the water
lapping at its sides and everything
is at once beautiful and beyond.
You see now why I can’t stand
the thought of losing anything.
It was too much fun before the sorrow
came. By the time we find her, it’s almost
morning, and everything is so close
to being illuminated, and so close to being gone.