Missouri is the 1850s and two Irish immigrants marry in Kansas City. Missouri is a bricklayer in north St. Louis. A hardscrabble farm in Appleton, another in Vichy. Missouri is an orphanage in St. Louis and another in Cape Girardeau. It is losing your children to tuberculosis and marrying at 16 already pregnant with your first child and your brother getting shot by his step-son. It is dying from rat poison you administered yourself because you were going to prison. It is unmarked graves and marked ones, too.
Missouri is a house built in 1905 that breathes a sigh of relief every time you repair or restore something that is broken or neglected. While you repair yourself in the process.
Missouri is a creek in Maries County where you spread your dog's ashes because it was her favorite place. And one of yours.
Missouri is a cave where you can feel the earth's pulse. It is rivers and grapevines and bike trails and uncles who kiss you hello every time and gravestones you know by heart.
Missouri is a wedding in a south city church. Baptisms in another south city church. All the sacraments, all the moments of grace. It is three children brought into the light.
Missouri is a monastery with industrial windmills towering over diminished women all in black. It is a home of relics from all over Europe.
It is brick alleyways and crime; crime fighting and a clenched fist.
It is the home of all your best friends. It is also an open hand.
It is speaking truth to power and being easy. It is a tattoo parlor in the Grove and a rock bank on a river with friends. It is nights spent on the porch. Nights spent in the basement listening to the tornado sirens. Nights spent in tents under the stars.
Missouri is corner bars and churches and staying too long and laughing too loud and crying until there are no more tears and no more words and you know what has to be done.
Missouri runs through my veins like the bricks under the asphalt of my city street.