After the Hurricane
miles north, my father beds down in a van by the Connecticut River.
Snow tires rim-deep in the silt. He has a wool horse blanket
tacked inside the windshield. A pair of extra pants bunched
into a pillow. He has a paper bag of partially smoked butts.
A Paw Sox cap. A Zippo. He has state-sponsored cell phone minutes
and a camo jacket hung on the sideview to dry. He can see the Costco
parking lot through the trees. Swelling and emptying out. He wants
to fix things with his wife. He wants a couch to crash on.
He wants a drink. He wants sex. He has a few cans of kidney beans
and a tin of ShopRite tuna. Wrinkled plastic piss bottles line the dash.
Sometimes he walks out to the river and lets the wind sift his lank
and matted hair. Sometimes he peels his socks and stands
in the murky current and thinks about his wife. The birthmark
on her neck. Her one toe longer than the others. Her freckled hands.
He tries to hold her hands in his mind. He tries to remember
the birth years of his sons. He tries to make sense of the papers
he signed. The icy water wetting the hem of his pants. The river stones
sharp underfoot. The wind. I hold him like this in my mind
In the Supply Closet at Illing Middle
Mike pins me to the sink, forearm
levered against my throat, flexing
the needle-nose pliers in one hand.
He and Ant examine the hole in my head
where the pencil lead snapped off, blood
leaking down my temple
and pooling in my ear. I squirm
and Mike presses harder. Hold still.
I know how to do this.
I know what he means: our fathers
used to salvage wrecks in Mike’s sideyard.
Hammer out the paneling,
clean the fouled spark plugs
with spit. Flip them for cash or drive them
until the transmission seized.
If they didn’t know where
one came from, they pulled it
into the garage, sold it off quick.
Now, Ant stands lookout
in the doorway. Half-watching
for teachers and half-watching Mike,
who rinses my hair
with floor cleaner thick
as motor oil. Eases my head
toward the weak light
of the pull-chain bulb. Presses
the pliers to my skull, and starts to dig.
Free Armchair, Worcester
He pinches the j between his first two fingers squints an eye against the ribbon of smoke sliding up and over his cheekbone. It’s me my buddy Ant and Ant’s stepdad Randy a half-ass house painter who’s always trying to hit us up for weed or pills even though we’re thirteen and don’t do pills or have any idea how to get them. We’re driving Randy’s work van into Worcester to pick up a recliner he found in the free section of the Globe. Ant hates his guts and I don’t like him much either but Ant’s always doing stuff for me like asking his mom if I can stay the night or sneaking me empanadas when my dad doesn’t come home so I go along Ant up front me in the back bracing myself against the wheelwells trying not to get knocked around too bad. Randy pulls up in front of the house and we try stuffing the armchair in the back but the arms are too wide. We flip it on one end heave it onto the roof. Lash it down with a tangle of rope from the glovebox and step back. It’s not a bad-looking chair. Fabric ratty at the edges but sturdy. Mostly clean. Randy twists another j to celebrate and buys us sandwiches. We post up in an Arby’s parking lot the three of us cracking jokes Randy belting folk songs in Spanish. Recliner strapped to the van like a prize buck. He flicks the roach into the weeds says but you skinny-asses you little faggots you could barely lift it and we stop laughing. I look over at Ant and he’s sort of picking at his jeans face tight like he got caught doing something dumb like he’s ashamed or something and for a second it’s like what’s gonna happen has already happened. Like the rope’s already snapped the armchair gone headlong into the road behind us. Like we’r...