The Caps on Backward
It was already late inside me.
City air. p City light.
Houses in a row.
14-year-olds.p Nine of us.
Eight voices changed.p Already rumbling
under the governance of sperm.
But his voice, bright as a kitten's
tickled our ears like a piccolo.
So, we'd trill ours up-What's wrong, man?
Cat got your balls?"p And watch him shrink
like a dick in a cool shower.
Every day.p Bit by bit.p Smaller.
I think about it now-how bad he wanted to be
with us pppp how, alone with the radio
he must have worked his throat
to deepen the sound.
The blunt edge of boys pppp teething on each other.
The serrated edge of things in general.
Maybe he spilled grape soda on my white sneaks.
But I knocked him down, gashed him with my fists.
It was summer.p A schoolyard afternoon.
Older boys by the fountain.
Yeah, kick his pussy ass.
Nobody said it, but it was time.
We knew it ppp the way trees know shade
doesn't belong to them.
The low voices knew.
And the caps on backward.
It must go something like this:
First, one cell flares in the brain.p Then
the two cells next to that.p Then more and more.
Until something far off begins to flicker.
Manhood, the last fire lit before the blackening woods.
The weak one separated from the pack.
The painted bird.p The bird, painted.
From HAMMERLOCK (Cleveland State University, 1999)