I sat at it, a good table—one of a number
of respectable pieces they managed
to keep out of the weather, until it lost
whatever appeal it had had for them,
until the disintegration of the marriage
gathered enough speed that they’d use
it, almost literally, as a barricade.
I’d been caught looking at nude
men in a National Geographic.
In fifth grade I knew how bad
the question was: are you homosexual?
He was confused about the fact
that the older boys who raped him
when he was my age hadn’t been
gay boys but psychopathic boys.
It took courage. It was the article
about the tribesmen who build
a forty foot tree-limb scaffold
and tie a vine to it and to an ankle
and jump off face-first. Each ties
according to his height, weight,
sense of the materials, prevailing
winds, temperature, humidity, etc.
In the overall mass calculation
genitals matter little next to heads.
Because construction takes much
of the day the last to go must
remember where the ground was.
His peers will learn by torchlight
whether the vine stretched enough
to preserve the ball in its socket
joint, whether the tower gave
enough to place his lips on the earth.
After Mr. Brown rewired his vacuum so that it blew down a duct-taped
nozzle and filled the cow lung, they jimmied the biology classroom lock
to steal it. It was the size of a too full carry-on banished planeside to the hold.
No self-respecting teenager would have wrapped both arms
around it but I like to think they didn’t use gloves as they carried
it dripping, crabwise across the empty quad, someone gripping
the remnant windpipe, others supporting it, slippery, from below.
The gentle Mr. McCann our English teacher taught that art
was made by people just a little more than we were like us.
That we could get there if we tried: a beautiful fable my good,
dead friend. Giving it footprints in my locker the artists tore a lobe.