I could see you straddling a broom,
counter-weight to your cat I hadn't met,
and as you rose with the teeter-totter, I promised
not to let go. The wood was cold and hard
and hurt my ass. While you were suspended,
I could've put my foot down, held my end
in place, a farmer with his heel to the back
of a shovel, looking over a field, in Massachusetts,
say, or Kansas. Leaves covered the ground.
The jungle-gym looked new, with blocks of wood,
beams secured by oversized screws, recessed
like navels. How many children stuck their fingers
into these holes during daylight, pretending to do work?
Motionless again, the teeter-totter built to stand
.the hazards of the park, the weather, the deals gone good,
deals gone bad, and first dates, where, on being led
to a giant toy of steel and plastic and rope,
one may be on the deck of a ship with nowhere to go.
I want to tell you about a boy, and no,
he's not me, though I think of a polaroid
of myself at his age, legs ghostly pale,
as my hair, the jersey I'm wearing (too long).
Hanging in my left hand a plastic football helmet.
This boy's in the basement of dad's old house,
from whose floor vents were heard air and music.
Tony, who was eleven, would wake up bitching
about the music that was playing—fifties
music, I imagine, for no real reason—when he
wanted sleep, and maybe the boy wanted a kind
of friend in Tony; something had switched on the radio,
the mini-boom box reserved for the basement
in chance of bad weather, tornadoes. 'Fraidy hole,
as dad called it, and it was musty and damp
and he kept his fishing tackle and poles there.
What I didn't think of at the time: Somebody
had to go down and turn it off.
. . . I dream too. But for extra money,
I went building to building and sprayed, planter to planter,
tiered, big and small. The poison smelled sweet.
I dropped and ruined only one begonia over forty-eight hours!
The lights on dimmers in the walls, positioned
carefully, slyly like cameras. To wash well after work
is not to become infertile. That's how I worked:
As if someone were watching me. What was seen:
Light that fell through leaves as through ears,
luminous and warm; my partner's shirt coming untucked.
I daydreamed most of the night of the things I wanted,
earned by the invisible and odorless, pure feeling
of being watched.
"These girls come in, three of 'em, giggling,
traipse around, sort of falling over each other
to make their way to the back of the store,
where we take breaks. I was managing,
it was pretty late, we stay open later on weekends.
I hear them first, then see that one has what turns out to be
chocolate milk on her white jeans. The three of 'em
almost euphoric, one tells me the van skidded
and turned on its side and they're alright, wants to make a call.
I walk outside and sure enough, the van's on its side, and there's
a few cars around it. A ghost story would be
telling you I saw three bodies being pulled out of the wreckage;
but really, the girls were inside the store, safe, visibly okay, I guess.
Against good advice in not going to the lake
during deer season, with the would-be hunters and rifles
unaware of the air space of the camping grounds,
I love to be today. The crowns of trees like pom-poms
in slow-motion, being blown raw like dandelions
to the wick. Where the wind, off a lake of drinking-water
and shower-water and swimming-water, and rain-water
and water that comes straight into the home, would rush over a fallen
body on a bed of leaves. No swimming on the rocky side
but I like to stick my feet in as it runs over my shoes
that will squish back to the hole in the woods of the
campsite that leads to the car. To a small parking lot, lit at night,
messiah or spacepeople could use, there, next to the cove.
The campers are also more not-yet-here but coming
than non-existing, with the smell of cookers and buzz of scooters,
snaps of firecrackers and kids playing soon. Like the senses,
all the roads are one way and lead into one another. I can stay hours.
Winters grow shorter between summers of dangerous heat.
Almost back, my finger through the key chain ring like a yo-yo.
As for pool-water, after she'd walked outside, where I was
face down at the deep end holding my breath, bangs
floating like algae, she used the word "again" with "never."
The water trapped in my ear . . . would ache.