One late afternoon, riding the bus,
I turned and saw a boy about my age
lying in a driveway, not moving,
likely just pretending though I feared
he was hurt and had no idea how
to call for help. Days passed
without mention of a dead boy
so eventually I forgave my silence,
that lump like an acorn already
stretching my heart in two.
But I still remember him lying there,
arms splayed like cast-off sticks,
chin frightfully angled, no mother
scowling from a foreign porch.
Maybe now, he's holding a bottle
in a baby's mouth, threading a bullet
through the snowy hide of a deer.
Maybe we've passed each other
and didn't know it. Maybe it's you.
And mine is the face that blurred by
just as you looked up and waved,
too late, and ran back inside.
I wonder what my mother thought
of that naked redhead in a field
gazing up at an approaching unicorn,
a Greg Hildebrandt painting
shrunk down to the size of a poker card
then dropped in the muck at the fair
the summer my blood quickened
like hot oil and every woman seemed
like a buxom angel sent to save
someone else. How could she know
how it felt to walk home
with such an unexpected find
taut as a prison key in my pocket,
the first good turn since Christmas,
or how gratefully I stashed it
between encyclopedias in the Playboys
I’d bought off a friend for half
my lifelong accumulation of Legos?
Later, when I came back
from a bike ride to find out
she’d organized my bookshelf,
everyone weirdly quiet,
more than those plastic women
bending over school desks
with promises shouted into a lie,
it was the card I feared for,
remembering those white calla lilies
gasping on a faraway hill,
the cloudbreak like Heaven ending
in tastefully draped curls.
Then I tipped the encyclopedias
to find what she’d left behind:
one wall in a delicate house of mercy.
Michael Meyerhofer’s fifth poetry book, Ragged Eden, was published by Glass Lyre Press. His work has appeared in Missouri Review, Rattle, River Styx, Southern Review, The Sun, and elsewhere. website