last summer of innocence


there was Noella who knew I was sweet
but cared enough to bother with me

that summer when nobody died
except for boys from other schools

but not us, for which our mothers
lifted his holy name & even let us skip

some Sundays to go to the park
or be where we had no business being

talking to girls who had no interest
in us, who flocked to their new hips

dumb birds that we were, nectar high
& singing all round them, preening

waves all day, white beater & our best
basketball shorts, the flyest shoes

our mamas could buy hot, line-up fresh
from someone's porch, someone's uncle

cutting heads round the corner cutting
eyes at the mothers of girls I pretended

to praise. I showed off for girls
but stared at my stupid, boney crew.

I knew the word for what I was
but couldn't think it. I played football

& believed that meant something.
when Noella n 'nem didn't come out

& instead we turned our attention
to our wild legs, narrow arms & pig skin

I spent all day in my brothers' arms
& wanted that to be forever–

boy after boy after boy after boy
pulling me down into the dirt.