Summer sounds rise and fall
as if roots from the cool dirt
lift a symphony stick to guide
the exoskeleton rubbings,
religious tinnitus of sure bugs
beneath the green tops, an orange streak
like a teen's bleached hair,
not far from the lasting bark with names
of kids sixty years past puberty, graffiti
of a rural boy who carved his letters
plus another in a heart. The wind heaves
its chests of leaves, and my insides burn
with welcome cell death, like a prayer
to the second-person no one in every damn whisper,
my two eyes on time's off-beat, only opened
with the medicine of slippage, that fine hum of poisons,
and a new crease to my face, like a forest path to haunts
of hard laughs at lost jokes in rooms for smokes.
Now tires sound the gravel, beneath child faces
in the car window. Time to wash the apple
of its poison, and cut grapes in half for the safe swallow.
I prepare their meal, buzzed, remembering Charlie,
the barbecue cook who told me not to be bashful
about leering at pretty girls through the server window.
He grabbed my shoulder and told me to stare, boy.
Later, he put out his smoke
with his fingers, tamed the fire
by callous, then wiped off ashes
and smiled, you gotta’ build to that,
son, but you best take it slow.