by Jason Tandon

for a high school buddy killed in Iraq

I stand in the drainage field behind my house
that mounds into a small hill pinioned
with slender trees dropping weight for winter's regimen.
Their branches, bone-thin wings of angels.
I remember when we used to drink
on our old playground after dark
until the cops chased us away.

Beyond the hill, in the dun colored stalks
of dead cattails, a heavy thing drags through the leaves.
I yell. It doesn't scare. Is it the black bear
that made the neighbor's kid wet his pants
when he heard these young trunks snap?

I close my eyes. I've heard this sound before.
That wacko—pacing the gated bowels
of New York's Port Authority, newspaper
twined to his feet—muttering about pound cake.
He had made the best, sold thousands from his shop.
Who don't like pound cake? I don't. But he grabbed
a fistful of my shoulder, and I was taught always
to be terrified of those stranger than me.

Last updated March 15, 2023