Because, for boys, every bond must be tried, it never surprised me to find myself locked with a friend and rolling, first him on top, then me, in mud, snarling like beasts lashed by twin ends of a rope we could not break. Heritage or instinct, boys are raised for conflict, smell it out, kick to get it started when it will not simply rise out of breathing. I can’t recall any friendship ruined by an afternoon’s shoving match. At worst, our fights foreshadowed the subtle tectonics that finally divide most friendships. With hindsight we could claim they were practice for the conflicts with bosses and women waiting to be discovered behind the long horizon where they hid. But the real lesson was understanding how to stop, how to sit grass-stained and breathless, a crust of blood drying on the lip, watching TV and sharing a bag of chips with one you wanted, moments ago, to prove you could hurt.

AL MAGINNES is the author of five full length collections and four chapbooks of poetry, most recently Inventing Constellations (Cherry Grove Edition, 2012) and Ghost Alphabet (White Pine Press, 2008), winner of the White Pine Poetry Prize. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in Tar River Poetry, Solo Café, Arkansas Review, Bookends Review, Southern Humanities Review. He lives with his family in Raleigh, NC, and teaches composition, literature and creative writing at Wake Technical Community College.