Knife Fighting in the 50s
No drugs to speak of, very little alcohol,
only “joyrides” in cars we stole, and plenty
of hostility for strangers, redheads, and homos.
Lefties had an advantage, striking from the same
side as the opponent. I was left-handed and still earned
eleven scars on my right arm. Nine of them from blocking knives.
Any night, but especially Fridays, sometimes Saturdays,
were fight nights. While our fathers, stale from WWII, watched
TV, Gillette's “Friday Night Boxing,” we went at each other with thin edges.
We met in ball fields, vacant lots, and cat alleys with our pigstickers,
flip-knives, and switchblades to parry and thrust like gawky fencers
at torsos, necks, and blocking arms. We were the good guys, my friends
and I, because we didn't want to kill you, for the most part, just give you stitches.
Another Appalachian Spring
When I see the fern just unfurl
like the banner of a fey army
crossing in crisp breeze of forest,
when I see the river's teeth
sharpened by the brisk, cool wind,
the winter's driftwood freed
from stiff mud, when I see others
seeing as I do and no one
looks away to frozen memory,
when I begin again to see
the coming distractions of leaves
and how the naked tree arms
in slow sleight-of-hand produce
their long sleeves of green, when air rests
easy as a clear balloon on waking grass,
when I see gaunt squirrels fresh
from the apocalypse of ice rain
and hard snow dart across yards,
I look down at Earth soil and know
I gaze at myself and all
of us in the endless future.
My Father's Coat
When my father leaves, I am half a dozen
years older than nothing. He does not take
the sky with him. My mother is still around
for now, but he does take the cloudless part.
Since then, his stiff khaki jacket has hung
on the last hook near the back door of memory.
It hangs and hangs, a crisp, tan slough from one
of those ghost locusts that cling to trees.
I never heard him sing, dance, skate, tell a joke,
or do any of the other things I can't do. Twenty-
four years later, he came back to fall in a hallway
and die in his night watchman's uniform.
My father's coat never did fit me. Forty-two years on,
I still can't take it from the hook or let its husk blow away.