I pace the path when witches

reign through the infinite room.

My blocked thought cooks exhales and trails

smoke. Cracked silence: slab of metal slaps

air powder shot faster than sound—

right outside the pulled blinds and thin

window, a gut scream. My poor urban neighborhood

holds the moment close. Seconds bleed-pause, bleed-

pause. My breath gathers waves like the tide, naked

sea bottom scooped; tidal roar. A second shot

stops the scream. So close my neck convulses.

The rest of me stuck solid,

scooped and waiting for the wave.

 

There,

held by the death

of the moment, I’m 12-years old again, shiny

BB gun birthday present, my proud dad and I—

our feet crack the leaves, slick trigger-free hands

sweat the morning chill, bursting

to become death, become a man. Sensitive, lonely

 

woods, my real friends, nestled and wild

behind my house. I’d sneak out, under

cover of snores, pubescent ninja, careful to muffle

the lock’s click. My dad pointed

 

to a red bird, showed me how to aim

my birthday present through leaves

that held life close, and waited

for me to manifest my destiny.

 

In those woods behind my house,

where my real friends nested, raised their young,

shared their air with me, taught me

their songs, their rhythmic chatter,

muted my lonely echoes…

In those woods

 

I aimed

to please my dad, aimed

at bullies, aimed

at the bird’s red breast.

The woods held the moment

close. Then, all those late-night lessons

enlightened me. It wasn’t some dirty, weak,

red-breasted creature in the tree. I saw myself

at the business end of that heartless metal,

my dad, my whole family, everyone

I would ever know, every infant, plant, river,

every god and devil ever dreamt of by hopeful

fearful people. The image bled-warped, bled-warped

until what I saw beyond that convulsing gun barrel

was the equality of all things. The bird’s

life was my own,

and was not mine to take.

 

I surrendered my birthday

present Blood

in my dad’s fingerprints,

along his life line.

I couldn’t cry, only hold the moment close.

His hands were my hands,

 

my hands on the corpse outside my thin window,

my hands hold the life of this man

who won’t get up. How did I get here?

Where is the killer? I forget how to breathe.

This man under the streetlamp’s hum,

on the grass damp with dew and blood,

a boy no more than 12;

his breath is mine—

on my knees, gasping in red, white, and blue

police lights, gasping on my knees, scooped

and picked clean by tidal vacuum, on my knees

 

at Kim’s grave.

Kim, whose mom taught special-needs kids,

Kim, only person I ever knew

who wasn’t guilty of greed and obfuscation,

Kim, long blonde naturally curly hair,

Kim, who never used her beauty

as leverage, who treated everyone

with equal respect and dignity, even me.

My head on her gravestone, rough marble

pockmocked forehead. Kim, no end

to my tears in her name.

 

Fresh college pizza

deliverer, dead North Carolina

road, mozzarella, pepperoni,

rock and roll finger tap. Too slow tailgate

road rage, two-lane lights bright, wrong place

that night. Oh, Kim, your kind world

holds the moment close. Policeman, fired that day,

 

wife left him that day, two 12-year old sons

in his back seat that day. I hold the gravestone close,

will time to stop. My weak flesh bends-red,

bends-white. The stone holds firm in its death

worship. I can’t stop that ex-policeman.

 

Oh, Kim, hold the steering wheel close. He slams

his life into yours, thin window between you

and all that hate. Pass her, you broken

fool! It’s not too late!

 

But it is.

She’s off the road, tires buried deep

in the ditch. My fingernails chip

against immovable marble, knees stained

green. I can’t stop the gun in his hand,

can’t stop his religion, deformed cross

in his hand, can’t close his children’s eyes

as they cry for him to stop his death

worship, cry for him to come back

to the car. Through the thin window,

through the fear, you watched him aim.

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