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i.

i can hear the blown
muffler dragging
down the street
clattering over each
pothole along the way,
then the crunch
of gravel in the drive
as i make a beeline
for the doghouse
sanctuary, the collie,
my mother protector
backing in behind
to keep me safely
hidden in the dark
heat, smell of straw
and dirt and dog
as the old man
staggers up the walk
and the screen door
creaks and slams,
i hear the demands
for dinner and beer,
for “the boy” who’s
gone missing, but
the boy is being
quiet, hiding, and
won’t come out
until pie is served

ii.

all the boys knew
Missy but me, but then
one hot afternoon
in a prickly bed
of weeds and grass
off a wooded path
where our bikes lay
dumped on their sides,
i’d get my turn
to learn the ways
of greedy dispassion
and rut with her
for all of five minutes,
only needing two,
and it cost me just
two cigarettes, stolen
from my mother’s
purse, and a promise
to call her, sometime,
so we lay there
sweating and covered
in bits of leaves
as we gazed into
a canopy of green
silently sharing
a smoke
and the feel
of dirt

iii.

my sister called
and i was busy, busy,
deadlines looming
and a business to run
but something in her
voice made me pause
long enough to hear
her demand for me
to sit. listen. important.
Mom’s dead, she said,
a sick joke, but i
waited for the punchline
anyway, only to hear
her say it again
so i hung up the phone
and as it sank in,
a low guttural moan
slowly built into a wail
that echoed down
marble hallways,
flushed the moles
from their holes as heads
popped out door after
door, wondering
who was being
murdered

iv.

the soft glow of neon
hides the cracks
in the plaster stained
with decades of smoke
and stories, drains
the life from the faces
of the patrons, filling
the stools with ghosts
who stare deep
into the streaked mirror
behind me, searching
for meaning or
redemption
or escape
behind lines of liquor
and a wire rack selling
alka-seltzer and aspirin,
while i pace the bar
gathering up
the empties
and filling
their glasses
with more

v.

lost and found
and lost again and
again i’m a ghost,
haunting myself
and the shell
of a man
too old for a new skin
yet too young
for the one
he’s in

©2013, Sean Fulkerson. All rights reserved.

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