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.