14. Play Time

The boys played in their daddies’ shadows,
Freely–for these grown-ups,
Unlike mamas, did not listen
To the random nasty word,
Or the stories they portrayed.
They tumbled
Through long-legged overalls,
Swift to duck the clutches,
Scrambling, of a tall boy
Picked as the Town Drunk:
He stalked stiff, a roaring
Frankenstein. They shrieked,
Scattered, fired with finger-guns.
They would not kill him,
But captured him
And locked him up.

From their circle,
Girls glanced with disdain,
Then down to business.
First, from someone’s pocket,
Stub of chalk–
Tied to string, a compass–
Ring marked,
Marbles pooled,
They all could play.
Their crouched backs,
Sturdy with concentration,
No Town Drunk could
Break through. With their
Nimble fingers, dead-aim eyes,
They shared taws so to
Perfect their game.

“Hey! Your dad
Stay at home now?” one boy asked.
“James replied, “Yep. Yours?”
“Sure does.” The boy bragged:
“Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.
Every day. Don’t go to work
No more.”
“He play with you, then?” James
Challenged him, a contest now.
“Sure does”–nervous smile–
“We carve whistles.”
“You don’t!” James said,
Scared that it was true, thinking
Of the melancholy Thomas–
“Bet your dad drinks,” James said.
Tom did not.
James said, “Bet he drinks
And takes his belt to you.”

Fun gone from his face,
The boy said, “Might.
Might not. I don’t
Need no whistles.
Stays home now, though,
Sure does. Every day.”

Then the boy ran off.
He trailed a cloud,
Kicking up the powder
All their dads said,
Won’t grow scratch–
That blew in,
No longer blew away.

2 Responses to “14. Play Time”

  1. Lisa Abraham Says:

    Perfect.

  2. sshaver Says:

    And that’s a perfect response to the poem. (Yes, I’m smiling at myself.)

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