My grandfather says crown, meaning
crayon. It doesn't rest heavy and glorious
atop my head; it falls clunky and embarrassing
from between the lips, lands on gravel

drives. I don't care. Al is the man with the body
shop down the street but also the bird
perched in the tree above the house I grew
up in, like hal is the call of the coyotes

at night, tickling your spine as you lie
awake. You know the sound I mean,
even if you name it with a different curve
of your tongue, a different flick.

I know how to keep my lips pursed,
my tens from ringing like tin. I know how
to save grease from bacon in an old jam jar
for cooking and how to shovel

hay-thick manure from barn stalls,
ignore my blistering palms. When I say last
or fast, I can keep it to one pure syllable,
splitting only myself, this piece and that.

I know how to choose.

Anna Sandy-Elrod is a PhD candidate at Georgia State University, where she also teaches English Composition and Introduction to Creative Writing. She is the current Editor in Chief of New South and managing editor of Muse/A. Her work appears in the Santa Ana River Review, Nightjar Review, the Indianapolis Review, and others. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and three cats.