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ISSUE:  Autumn 1977

Threnodies of childhood.
Hatch a nut, inhabit
the boxcar detached

from all the others
on a rusted track
where at erratic

intervals something
moves as on an empty
Sunday bent

over fragments
of a model airplane,
navigator grizzled,

biting so hard into his
cigar he spits
tobacco, pilot

new at the game,
conscripted guide
of no count,

threnodies of airplane glue,
first legal high,
sun razing the rust

off the trainyard,
glinting, sparking,
crossties green

with age and
hazardous with splinters.
You gazed back

at your electric trains:
the cattle stall on the ladder
to the cattle car,

buzz and jitter,
huddle, fall, pile up,
while at the abattoir

out yet another window
padded stalls and false
backings keep those

perched in neighboring
tenements listening
for their final bellow.

Rubble out yet
another window
a jungle of rough

white stalk and hard
white rock
bleak, bleached,

like the high rises just
erected—conflagrations
of toilet paper

in the sink, porcelain
charred, blackening,
smokestack like an empty roll,

passport to juvenile
court in the poor box
you plunder under the nun’s

habitual benign gaze,
and at school to sit
back of the girl

with the blonde braid
you tug for affection,
pledged to her white

and turquoise Scripto
and a Pez dispenser
that is never

empty when she
flicks it like a lighter
and lips the tiny pellet,

the rush when you kiss her
cheek in the elevator not yet
rooted in your cock,

her breasts stirring under
dresses of rustling chintz,
gawk, kid, at her first

shoots, snowdrops, startled
buds—and in back of you
the dark, refined, hard-edged

sophisticate Louisa
who taught you beauty’s only
the beginning of terror

and still you quiver
to think of her, and sought
her double in the world for years.

You trembled at the sun
flooded open
boxcar door, mother’s

tales of children being
locked in and frozen, hung
among sides of beef

in the freezer car,
You felt wired to die
upon transgression

and instead stole
lightbulbs from her cache
for your black comrades

convinced the empty sockets
were the source
of that heavy gray light.

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