Ars Poetica with Fists

by Keith Montesano

Midnight: over roads devoid of cars,
just the man’s black jeep cutting off
the boy’s. It started as a harmless prank:
stealing a flower pot, with friends, off

the front porch of a house where a girl lived
who all of them knew. But beyond the story
lies the song of a summer near dawn,
a continuation, if you will: not birds, bats,

or wind over dry grass, but soon, after
the others arrived safely at their homes,
quarter notes of the boy’s head bashed
against the windshield, knees skinned

on black road, right temple clocked until time
became something he groped for, slowed
like leeches seeking blood. But back to
the beginning: when they returned to replace

the flower pot with a parking pylon, they heard
a whisper: hey, you’re busted, the almost-silent dread,
the fright of four boys who sped away, confused.
They knew her father was an ex-NYC cop

but didn’t know he would later tail the boy
who was driving, brights glaring bluntly
in the rearview mirror, inches from the bumper,
the jeep harshly swerving, almost into him,

cutting him off on Mehard Road. He thinks
he’s going to die, frozen alone in the front seat.
Then, with arms bulging, the man pulls the boy out,
wraps his left arm around the neck, eighth-note fists

pounding into right temple, skin bruising out
before air’s choked out : sir after sir after sir,
listening to lectures on property rights,
those he murdered in Harlem: I’ve snapped necks before,

I can do it again. And as your life becomes only
that longing to hold on, it’s hard to think of anything
but how you listen—the point where tone
and the music of your voice converge, and start to matter.