You’re not even from Cleveland but Akron, Cleveland’s double-
     jointed second cousin
who wraps her arms round her head and flaps them like an albatross
     that landed in the ocean and can’t take off again.
But Cleveland was your town and your town stretched north to
     Toledo - where Woody Hayes pushed his car rather than fill up in
     Michigan – all the way past Columbus to Cincinnati – which is so
     south its airport is in Kentucky.
You were Ohio’s son. Its King.
For seven years, the restaurants, the bars, the sports shops
     downtown by the Q bloomed as the rest of Ohio wilted.
You brought spring. And then winter.
Its just as hot in Ohio in summer as it is in Florida but for four months
     in winter it’s beautiful. Caribbean winds, Christmas lights wrapped
     round palm trees, doors open all night revealing their screens.
There are no windows to scrape ice off, no sidewalks so slick they
     scare your career, no white snow to become mounds of brown
     and black snow on the highway shoulder.
Who can blame any Midwesterner for leaving the cold for Florida?
     There’s plenty of us here. The Ohioans, the Chicagoans, the
     Michiganders. Canadians too. You’ll be stuck behind them on
     I-95. Their license plates will tell you Je me souviens.
You can wear your Yankee hat here. South Florida is the sixth
     borough. I’ve picked up a Long Island accent and a penchant for
     deli sandwiches.
At Marlins games against the Cubbies or Phillies or Red Sox there
     will be so many of these hats that the visitor is the home team.
Jets fans fill Dolphin games with Jets chants.
There are no authentic Floridians. There are but they’re out near the
     Everglades where alligators line the canal embankments and
     turkey vultures pick apart orange iguanas abandoned by their
     owners. You won’t see them.
Don’t go north of Orlando. It’s Georgia. And not Atlanta, Georgia.
     Georgia, Georgia.
Stick to South Beach where no good DJ stops spinning while
     someone’s still dancing. Live on Star or Fisher Island in a house
     with windows facing the Intercoastal Waterway. Shop in Boca
     Raton. Dock your boat in Fort Lauderdale.
There are places in Overtown no census worker can walk but you
     have keys to the city, to the county, to all the draw bridges
     that will lower upon your approach.
When you bore of the Brazilian beauty of the beaches and of the
     college girls in Coral Gables cooing your name, get lost in Little
     Havana, Little Haiti, somewhere down Calle Ocho or west of
     Hialeah. We’d love to see you there. We’ll sacrifice our cab for
     you, late night, on Alton Road.
Sometimes you’ll feel like a tourist, like you don’t belong. That’s what
     home feels like in South Florida. We’re all tourists. You’ll always
     be a stranger here because we are all strangers here.
We won’t ask for your identity. We won’t judge your narcissism
     because we’re all narcissists. We’ll admire your celebrity and view
     your athleticism as our own. We won’t ask you to want what you
     don’t want.
We’ll curtain our bodegas with your jerseys.
But always remember where you’re from. Remember Cleveland.
     Especially in February when you’re knee deep in the blue Atlantic
     and the next hurricane season is months away.


Brad Johnson has two chapbooks Void Where Prohibited and The Happiness Theory available at puddinghouse.com. His third chapbook Gasoline Rainbow is available at finishinglinepress.com. Work of his has recently been accepted by Nimrod, Poet Lore, The South Carolina Review, The Southeast Review, Willow Springs and others. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times.

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