Dead squirrel lies prone,
Chin resting on its two paws.
Looks like it's sleeping.
Dead squirrel lies prone,
"We got our asses kicked yesterday."
Monday morning at a diner in the suburbs,
the words spiral over from the next table.
The men have been talking about work,
and at first I think they mean on the job site.
But of course by "we" they mean the Bears,
and the ass-kickers are Detroit, I realize,
as the sentence stutter-steps around the offense,
drops through an alternate parsing route, and scores.
This "we" that makes such strange linguistic sense,
I still can't wrap my hands around it and tuck it under my arm.
I'm not a part of this "we," this synecdoche,
the "we" meaning "they" meaning "us all."
Trying to turn the corner.
"Not that way," I say.
But Ella insists,
So I give in and follow.
Not that big a deal.
This short, narrow lane,
It's a valid path back home,
Not such a detour.
Along the sidewalk
We rush, my arm stretched out straight,
Not pausing to sniff.
Brooklyn-bound N train, Thursday evening.
Leaving Ditmars Boulevard,
End of the line,
He slouches through the doors from the next car
Like a gunslinger into a quiet saloon.
Angry and blond under a straw fedora,
Jaunty beach towel around the shoulders
Of his Cuban shirt,
Belligerent hips thrust forward,
Hand jammed down the front of his
Oversized blue swim trunks
Like he's just waiting
To unload on the first cocksucker
Who looks at him funny.
No one gives him the satisfaction.
Where's he coming from, this Lord of Flatbush,
This Warrior coming out to play?
There's no beach at Ditmars,
Not unless you just swam over from Rikers.
It's ninety minutes to Coney Island
And dusk will soon be falling.
A hundred minutes, let's say, since humiliation
Sent him fleeing the sand and cotton candy
To the farthest corner of the earth:
But the gravity of betrayal on an otherwise
Perfect afternoon draws him back,
Back to an abandoned beach blanket for two
In the shadow of a graffiti-tagged lifeguard tower.
Flopped in a plastic seat, legs splayed,
Glaring and helpless,
He burns to curse the heavens,
But all the God was prayed out of him as a child.
Or is he still a child,
Hand down his pants
Fondling his balls like worry beads,
Like a long-dormant rosary?
Hail Mary full of grace.
Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch me,
No, don't watch me,
What're you lookin' at anyway?
You used to be such a sweet boy.
You used to tell me everything,
Ask me all your questions.
You couldn't wait to show off
Your times tables. At age three.
Which you worked out for yourself.
You used to climb into my lap
And rub the buzz-cut fuzz
On the back of my head.
You used to ask the barber
To cut your hair
So it was just like mine.
You used to show me your stories,
Talk about your friends,
Tell me what was on your mind.
You used to let me point out
When you were straying
From the straight and narrow
In deed or in thought.
I saw the first
of the year
west wind fourteen
miles per hour,
wind chill two.
I know it's the
first day of spring,
but I still think
they were confused.
Subtle peppery undertone
Rich toffee notes
Freshly baked biscuits
Clean desert aroma
Tangy cactus spine