BORING
The one great fact
of his life. It’s 9 P.M. on a weekend night,
and the most exciting thing he’s done so far
is wash his hands.
He let the cold run so long over each hand
it fit him like a glove,
he could almost have worn it away from the faucet.
For the lack of anything better to do
he scrubbed his face, too,
then let the washcloth’s dark
fall over his eyes,
his nose, his mouth,
then another washcloth, then another,
their heavy animal sadness pressing against him
till their need felt as great as his.
Another day of shooting hoops in the rain,
of walking a creek,
of keeping water company,
of envying even it, for being
preoccupied, as always, with the rocks
it wears grooves in, the trail
it keeps widening in the earth.
Water never tires
of following the same path,
of doing the same damn thing, day in and day out.
It never gets bored
rubbing a stone over and over.

 

HOW FAR DID YOU GET?
                              Often the first
question other boys would hit
                              a boy with, as if the kid
hadn’t gone out on a date
                              but tried to
swim the English Channel,
                              and they knew he couldn’t
cross such a distance
                              without their help,
and this was their way
                              of helping him. Go on,
tell us exactly how far,
                              not knowing yet how to
understand what a boy did
                              with a girl,
except by measurements:
                              how long,
how often,
                              the precise calculations
of sex. What was a kid to say
                              to his buddies? It was like
grabbing hold of a boat
                              and being pulled aboard
after treading water
                              for days. I lay there
like someone who’d been rescued,
                              looking up at the stars
as if they’d been part
                              of the search party, too,
the breeze on my neck,
                              the whole dark
sky. Imagine a boy
                              telling that to his friends.
It is more
                              than they wish to know.

 

THINGS TO REMEMBER
Lose the glasses, your goofy smile,
               your habit of talking to your bicycle,
and pulling on your earlobe
               when you meet someone
new. Stop biting your nails.
               Get your hair cut
so drastically no one suspects
               it’s you in the torn jeans.
Carry a comb,
               black and menacing
as a gun. Whip it out
               on the bus, at church,
in the middle of class. Curse
               as if you’ve always made sounds
that could slice a person
               open. Want
what your classmates want.
               Teach your lungs to love smoke,
your heart not to beat
               so loud, so the girl in your arms won’t guess
you’ve never slipped a hand
               inside a blouse before.
Get tattooed, every body part pierced
               that can be. Pretend
you’ve always smoked pot,
               had so much pussy
you’ve tired of it, are bored
               with the petty crimes
junior-high boys think up
               to pass an afternoon. Hang
with the very kids
               your parents warned you about.
Be a legend. So evil
               no one will ever remember you
being good.

 

DRESSING FOR THE DANCE
Maybe if I put on the right shirt,
                                             that one the color of the ocean
just before a storm,
                                             wear its rough waters to the dance,
a girl will be tempted,
                                             afterward, to unbutton it,
slip its turbulence off my shoulders.
                                             Maybe
if I strap on the belt with a star
                                             for a buckle, wedge into
my tightest pegged chinos,
                                             the black of caves
on the other side of the moon,
                                             she’ll have no power
to resist the night
                                             fast against my groin.
What if there’s nothing between me
                                             and her
but a thin layer of dark fabric,
                                             a troubled sea that rubs against
us both. Maybe
                                             I’ll let her
see what no one else has,
                                             my face stripped of everything but
hunger, what I really look like
                                             walking home in the shadows
made by the trees, from her house
                                             to mine,
my own honed body a blade
                                             ground to such sharpness
she can’t help
                                             but test its edge.