Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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Brochure for Exile

Here, take nothing for granted—wisp of shade,
trickle of rain. Unpack the wife and kids.
Bury your head in her belly, wrestle
your sons on cushions, beware
of hearts like sieves. Your sons
take everything for granted. The older
plucks the ripest blackberries,
slaps back the hands of the younger
whose juice-smeared clown mouth
gets bigger and bigger.
It only takes a moment—you know that—
the spliced wires you keep forgetting to fix;
if a boy pours water on the fire
it flares, frightening him still as a horse.
Playing truth or dare, a boy stumbles onto the third rail.
A teenager knocks a young boy off his bike
with a rock. And what if that teen is the one
who trips over the line wavering
in the part of the brain that says no, never, don’t?
You know—the teen who would drag him off
to an alley between abandoned factories,
blade glistening from a back pocket.
But it’s usually not abandoned factories;
it’s Sunday, six a.m., your boy delivers newspapers
on a cul-de-sac where the teen orders him to walk
into the acre of woods at the end of the block.
Your boy bolts toward the Mexican restaurant—closed, of course,—
and is cornered between dumpsters with uneaten food rotting over the edges;
only the rats can testify to the look in his eyes.
Everyone this side of town’s got a fence.
Some people have dogs
still sleeping at six a.m. Take nothing—
but everything can be taken from you
by some punk who never knew your name,
some virus, some cancer, your own sons. One of them
could flick the blade just to watch a smaller boy bleed.
Touch them, kiss your sons like they’re girls,
hold them so close their stink becomes your own.  end

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