by Kevin Boyle

Not the high jinks of men haltered to limbs
buzzing the hickory down, but the sawdust
left for mulch by the stump the red ants
stream across, rouge on the pale wood.
Not the pool drained of kids during the storm
that passes miles away, but the jock strap
left after five that the stall washer finds,
a name clearly sewn in the elastic.
Not the linden in bloom but its fragrance
overtaken by the cloud of Nissan exhaust.
Not the original of anything, but the “preowned,”
the hand-me-downs and rags of dolls,
their limbs or eyes left in other towns,
in the laundromat where the poor watch
their clothes fray in the cool-down cycle
or rinse. Not the broken-bat double bringing
the runner in from first, but the line in the stadium john,
the two men pissing into the fountain for washing up,
and the antennas bent by the boys watching your car,
then broken for swords and dropped. Not the music
you make love alongside of, the sexual appetites
so keen your jaw is loose, but this duet for
spare change these slightly rancid men pitch your way.
Not the umbilical cord severed, just the knife
and the sewing up after the baby passes through.
Not your hand, but the man’s electric hand-held massage
pushing into her neck and shoulders, her bra strap
loose at the end, her eyes glassy when she tips him.
Not the sea, but the salt and sand buckled under the waves.
Not the opening of the windows to put the screens in,
but the flagstone steps leading you to the headstone rows.
Not the aspen, but the rake and the pile and the burning.

KEVIN BOYLE’s book, A Home for Wayward Girls, won the New Issues Poetry contest and was published in 2005. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly, Colorado Review, Cottonwood, Denver Quarterly, Greensboro Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, North American Review, Northwest Review, Poet Lore, Poetry East and Virginia Quarterly Review. The Lullaby of History won the Mary Belle Campbell Poetry Chapbook Prize and was published in 2002. Originally from Philadelphia, Kevin now lives in North Carolina and teaches at Elon University.