--WOULD YOU LIGHT ME UP, REALLY SET ME ON FIRE, AND BE THERE WHEN I’M BURNING OUT?
You wonder if the windcan be a friend.
It’s a good listener and
talks to you sometimes
when you’ve escaped to
the small plateau a
mile from your trailer,
lying on your back,
the ground rough,
though you don’t mind
because the clouds are
shifting by like wild horses
and the trees are talking, too,
everything a mad chorus
of movement and raucous timbre.
The wind swings a branch
above your head, back and forth
in anything but 4/4 time,
like a conductor
begging for the crescendo.
You’ve never been
anywhere on earth
this alive or robust.
There’s so much to notice,
to absorb, even if this is
the tenth time you’ve
come here this month.
After all, the ground continues
to crack open where you live,
the insanity there wry humor
if it wasn’t so horrific.
You know each boulder
that surrounds you better
than you do your own siblings.
They’re sturdy, stubborn
and just as hard as your brothers.
Some have hairy moss cheeks, scars
and sharp knuckles like your brothers,
but they’ve never hit you,
never called you punk or faggot.
The wind says, “Night’s coming soon.”
Asks, “Don’t you need to get back?”
You put your hands behind your head
and lace your fingers tight as stitches.
You’re not going anywhere for a while,
maybe not ever.
The night after the lunar landingyou go outside, over the sloped hill
to your secret hiding place and
look up at the moon, peering hard,
trying to see if you can spot the astronaut
who’s bouncing around on the surface,
maybe playing golf. Golf!
But Luna is too far away and besides
clouds skirt by, blurring the view,
another thing that’s in your way.
You wonder what it takes
to become an astronaut.
Probably college, lots of college.
The Army’s waiting for you,
same as it was for your brave brothers.
It’s the one thing that likes poor people.
You find a rock and throw it as far as you can.
You want the astronaut to notice you.
You want him to say you can
follow in his footsteps someday,
even if it’s a lie, even if he’s just being kind.
In the morning, at dawn,there’s a pile of glass
and porcelain in the kitchen.
Though mere shards,
you recognize some of the patterns
that were once dinner plates—
the crest of a steep hill,
a buffalo horn curled above
a startled brown eye
that is now faded from use
and therefore less threatening.
Your siblings wake hours later,
ghosts who float over the linoleum squares
without touching or speaking,
not noticing the heap of the aftermath.
At the table all you hear is
the sound of their molars grinding,
and like a fool you search for code in the sound.
Occasionally there’s a swallow,
a dry-throated hiccup or burp,
but then it’s just dribble and slurped milk,
a tossed dish and a segue down the hall.
The school bus comes in forty minutes.
There’s one shower and seven of you.
It’s a feat to make it in time.
It’s the Olympics without TV coverage,
wraiths turning human,
turning into very busy bees.
You stay though, for some odd reason,
staring out the broken sunburst
window over the sink.
A robin perches on the sill outside,
pecking at glass, shuddering epileptic.
It peers at you and shudders again,
as if its seen its slaughter
foretold in your eyes.
Seconds later, your parents rumble down
in loose-knotted robes that
reveal what should not be seen
by a nine year old or anyone.
They’re banged up as if they’ve
been in boxing match or
have somehow survived a plane crash.
“What’re you doing here?” they ask.
You stand and leave without saying anything
because that’s the one question
you have no answer for.
You’re late for school.
Late for the bus.
Late for a rescue,
though there’s always time
to plan your escape.