Woven between trees,
near where the asphalt rises
to a peak on Pheasant Hill,
there's a dirt road speckled
with fieldstone, sloped with neglect
and summer squalls, marking the place
where the terrors of children
come to life.
Bulbous trunks, splotched
and bloated with seasonal
cancer, shuffle in close,
cross their cutlass branches
in a brittle salute. The children
race through, the fat ones
wheezing, certain of being
plucked and deboned by trolls,
dangled from an oak branch,
twisted in twine.
The condo managers uprooted
the streetlights long ago, tore
concrete to move it elsewhere,
a month of surgery which left
this scar, this resentful flap
of weed and gravel. The children
know theft is wrong; they seek out
the abandoned places, the gullies
and ravines ringed with chains
and ribbons by the adult world,
dissected by spidery blueprints,
town meetings, surveyors -
finally, the smoking yellow
crawlers with metal maws.
The children adopt
the motions of compliance,
flash fruit juice smiles
at mom and dad; coats half-on,
they rush out the door to form
bundled packs, exhale anxious clouds
with their leader, wiry and limber.
They'll follow him
down the dirt road, eyelids
shivering deep in sockets -
they'll secretly wish, as does he,
that some nightmare tendril
winds them tight, rends them
into thoughtless shards
Midnight in the Suburbs
The local Romeos smoke weed
as they tear down back roads,
burning rubber and concrete, spraying dust,
losing another Saturday night
to an old Moody Blues tune.
Squeezed awkwardly against a door handle
is their Raggedy Ann, a splotchy-faced redhead
with purplish rings on the skin of her arms.
So this is the inside of a coffin, she thinks,
layers of chrome and steel and dangling dice
and foam mushrooming through black vinyl.
Do the Romeos know the Moody Blues
are lazing their way through the cabaret circuit?
She knows they'll all be gone soon -
is that consolation or fear? - this one
with Jack, this one with a needle,
this one for humping like a cowboy
to impress his older brother or the Duke.
All dribblings, piercings, thrustings
Dad's "bail money" can't sweep
under the police station's welcome mat;
no sudden disappearances
courtesy of some sergeant's eager fingers:
another ex-city cop, in retirement
from slamming crack fiends
up against car windows.
Raggedy Ann doesn't fear the men in blue;
they're hanging out at Randy's 24-Hour Diner,
waiting for a little dope of their own.
Sometimes they stop attractive businesswomen
fleeing the city, passing through the mid-level suburbs
to the safety of picket fences beyond.
Leering at a tanned expanse of flesh,
they push Margaret or Janet or whatever her name is
onto the stick-shift with the force of their eyes.
Problem, officers, she'll say? Nope, they'll respond,
nodding like roosters, bouncing with
Raggedy Ann and the Romeos speed off
down never-ending stretches of pavement
sprinkled with orange-tinted streetlights.
Whether they're heading for the grave
or the all-night diner hardly matters;
they've got enough weed for anybody
they happen to come across
along the way.