What's a boy to do, both shoes caught in the tar,
the road past our house turning to street,
and me, a chicken trying to reach the other side.
Men burly as uncles swore and shook their shovels,
laughing. My mother waited on the porch,
drying her hands in her apron. My big sister teased,
her gawky girlfriends howled, and someone screamed
Tar baby! I swear I tugged, cursing the only words
I had learned, squashed down in July asphalt
like a bug, like Captain Marvel in the comics
turned into a tree, unable to budge. And of all days,
on my birthday. Carl would see me soon, and Mary Jane,
all kids I knew pointing on the curb and dancing.
Like God roaring up on his motorcycle, my brother
dismounted and stared. Tucking a Camel in his lips,
he lit and flipped the match away, came strolling down,
fists doubled, snorting smoke, not smiling.
Massive, towering above me, he jerked me up
without my shoes and hauled me like a sack of oats
back to the grass, his own boots ruined.
I remember him that way, not the box of belongings
they brought from Okinawa, not the flag Mother hung
in the window for all cars to see speeding past
the four-lane street, pounding my sneakers down.
Reprinted with permission
from Blessings the Body Gave
Copyright © 1998
by Walt McDonald
Ohio State UP