Willing

Hidden from all mothers’ eyes by blinded windows
glowing, I chase two neighbor sisters
up slides and platforms, my boy heart surely rising
as we round a silver maple, past the open gate,
the scooter I’d cast off—my sister’s purple and cream
and embarrassing tassels—past the kiddy swings
and foursquare courts. I’m smitten
with my outstretched hand and a feinting shoulder,
a Fraggle Rock t-shirt, a squeal. A clumsy stray,
that’s what a box van crawling over blacktop in twilight looks like
to a boy girl-blind; to sisters it looks like
a box van stopping at a playground gate on a shut-up street.
No one gets out, but I don’t notice—
two ponytails are pedaling away.

Let us admit that in this life with its dirty silver dollar
mid-flip above the mountains
there is no equity ever. There is terror and courage,
which, if we’re lucky, change
into love. Scooter in hand, I see no face
in the cab. Up the box each rivet holds the same T,
like for my name, though some are on their sides and some
are upside down. And the stomping!
How terrible to haul livestock! Around the back—
the oddest thing—the roll-top door
bulges then goes flat. But fitting and refitting size to shape
to angle for twenty years, I’ve long known
no cow, or bull, or hobbled horse
banged its way to slaughter. Love requires
a willing mind. I’ve tried
to imagine the past someone inside that box
still lives, if hovering, like me, thirty now:

A man given in to devouring
solitude drives a moving van around.
He knows where children may be playing.
Between the cab and cargo
there’s a crawl door, behind which, beyond a mattress,
squatting between a carpet roll
and the metal track, as far from the limbs
working the engine
as dark and steel allow,
a small body feels the braking
and rises up to haunches.
If the roll-top opens, she or he will run.

In a black so complete she’s whispered
each name she knows, ordering, reordering;
in a space so void
he’s restored a thumb to the warmth of his mouth,
it’s hard to hear the voices
through the panels—children, children
playing. He shrieks
with all of his soprano, or, knowing she’s in
a giant drum, she beats the walls
with every limb.
Quickly, the cargo light. Quickly,
the crawl door opens. We could have
been siblings. We could have been
child brides buttoned up the back and veiled,
hope thinning to one statistic: we were young,
we might outlive him.

Instead, a boy shoves
the man struggling for a headlock
into the door slats, or in the gray on clanging gray
a girl collapses as a face then elbow
presses her throat. And I—to noodles
with cream sauce, to Superman pajamas—
hands streaming moonlit purple,
push home.

 

 

 

 

David Thacker is a PhD student in poetry at Florida State University and holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Idaho. A recipient of the Fredrick Manfred Award from the Western Literature Association, his poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2015, Ploughshares, SubtropicsThe Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere.

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