In spite of the summers with heat so thick you could cut it with a knife.
I stay even though sometimes it feels like everything is out to get you.
Even though I let the night swallow me whole. Even though I got grass stuck in my spokes.
Because I’ve never had a good enough answer for where I’ve been, where I’m going.
Because belonging is subjective, and I will find my way out of the mud.
I stay for the bayou. I stay for the river.
I stay because Mardi Gras.
Because glitter in your bed, in your beard, for weeks.
Because bicycling through the neighborhood following a trail of red feathers.
Because strutting in the streets with a six-pack and a flask and all the time in the world.
I stay because I finally had the courage to escape the trimly cut lawns of my childhood.
I stay for the smell of jasmine on Gayoso Street at midnight.
I stay in the face of our crumbling coast.
In the face of disposability.
I stay despite the potholes and the boil water advisories and the streets that fill like a fishbowl after a light rain.
Despite the web of cat’s claw ever-creeping up the side of the house.
I stay because the joy on my niece’s face as she fills her cupped palm with pebbles in my backyard.
Because the joy on my husband’s face when the line on his fishing pole goes taut.
I stay because joy. Because we already hung the tire swing. Because when you build a home, you stay.
Tiana Nobile lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a recipient of a 2017 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, the Lucy Grealy Prize for Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and a Kundiman fellowship. She is the author of the chapbook, The Spirit of the Staircase (Antenna Press Street Press, 2017), and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Collagist, Apogee, Hyphen, and The Texas Review, among others. tiananobile.com