The Shielding

When I phoned I heard our mothers calling us home for dinner.

They were the background noise through the lines.

Then the neighborhood came into view.

I strolled its edges and street lights hung

flashbacks low on the asphalt.

I wondered if these streets ever experienced puberty.


The street signs were the modifiers of our life.

The “green lawns” we tended.

The “grand” hills we surfed.

That “dart-mouth” we swallowed

to pass through the mile-long gullet

to get to Hillside Jr. High.


We were untouchables in our kingdom.

We were a mob of children with nothing but time.

We kicked the can.

We lay like sardines.

We hid and we sought.

We had freedom, and the absence of mind

not to define it.


It was a time of guilty innocence, a wondering, a wandering.

It was the plural search of the lost boys.

Like hound dogs picking up a scent,

we would wag and sniff and scratch

even if nothing was uncovered.


I can still retreat to those rainy days of sunshine.

Paper dinghies would surge in the torrents of curbs.

Little boats would float on our big imaginations.


Then I heard it in your voice.

It was a crack of resignation.

It was pubescent squeak of resistance.

My call had come too close

to the footlocker you chained and bolted.

The Army taught you how to put away childish things.


Twenty years, a blink, almost amnesia.

Even when a Tonka truck was my only transport,

we were comrades of boyhood.

Now, our communication is through barbed wire,

and I am careful not to lean your way.

You “Frost”ed me not to follow you down the less traveled

like I was some kid tailgating you again.

You opened up the locker just long enough to throw me in.