This morning as I stood on the northeast corner
of Hudson and Charlton streets, two men in stripes
heaved-ho large mats inside the corporate lobby
and set them down length-wise on the floor.

As they shuffled by me, steps in sync, the rubber kicked up
a scent I knew, and I was back in Holiday Twin Rinks
in Cheektowaga, pouring quarters in arcade games
and putting away hot chocolate like a drunk would piney gin.

Another dream last night, another memory.
House I’ve never visited, poker games I’ve never anted in.
Cold late into March means well for local rink hands,
resurfacing work solid and ice less mushy.

I saw a young man with a hockey bag bearing the logo of my high school
on the subway platform, and it doesn’t mean anything. Unless, of course,
it does. Unless the cheap, stale rubber padding
that pair of palaces back home are somehow sacred,
protecting the holy blades from impurities,
preserving shine and sharpness. They walk ahead.

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Hoofed it through mist early Saturday
past gaudy ad space blinking fizz, displays
of homecoming kings reigning global rap
and bakery giants inking the new map.

The day before, a booming rain crashed here
and we ducked inward, egg rolls and two beers.
Now, hours from the soak, sidewalks hum
a memory of slickness. Bounding from

the hotel in brown boots and a peacoat,
nine o’clock, my mates still dreaming (bloat
of midnight cocktails), I’ve got coins to burn:
sausage sandwich and coffee. Later, I learn

the recipes vary up here, though all the same
to my tongue at the time. Still glad I came.
The clerk grinned as she slid the paper cup
across the counter. I ate that right up

with my sprinkle doughnut. Then back out
to tramp the damp pavement as billboards shout.
Dundas through mist — a feeling I still chase
years later, as memory supplants this place.

The first R-rated film I saw in theaters
was Superbad. I went with three friends in August
2007, a month before our last
run as high-schoolers began. It leapt
off the screen, the richness and the dick
jokes speaking to me, validating
my entire 17 years up to that point.
Near the end, when Michael Cera’s Evan
enters the bedroom with his childhood crush
but doesn’t sleep with her despite her offers,
my two friends agreed: He was a pussy,
but they wouldn’t have been. They would’ve fucked her,
drunk or not. The third and I, romantics,
fought back: Would they really want it that way?
I shouldn’t remember this. It has no bearing
on how I live my life a decade later,
except when it does. The third and I still speak,
not enough of course, but the other two
have fallen to ghosts in me — not just because
their admissions at a juvenile sex comedy,
but life reasons. Geography. People grow
like branches splitting away from their source roots
to bud in different ways, to seed and to die,
but some sprout closer together, pals on the bark:
a pair of dumb-eyed buddies at a show.

What more can I say about Renouf Drive
to you, oh parked car on the avenue?
You hear my stories of galloping down the sidewalk
with liquor bottles and White Owl tubes
at the ready, light beer cans shook up,
blurred text messages and declare a nostalgia hour
in your silence. When you whirr on the highway
you say less. Your shiny black exterior
reveals my teenage past in all its grandeur:
hawking crop-tops on the steps, retreating
emotionally to polish my veneer,
the cuss words on the bus, the matchbook
desperation. The end came too soon.
You can’t be 20 on Renouf Mountain.

Note: This poem is part of a larger project entitled Killer Domestic, an examination of the unusual and unfounded perils of suburbia.

 

When the moon shines bright and bloated

Like an uncle at Thanksgiving, the tree line on the street

Becomes a ridge of waves, jagged and perfect.

The fullest moon on Ironstone tonight bathes

Cars in spotlight sheen and makes you wrench

And yearn as hot as heartbreak

For the swimming past, the 1 a.m. curfews

In your car idling in the slanted driveway

Talking until the motion light quits, then

Gesturing it on again as we sit

And disintegrate to ’80s guitars

Which, feather-light, begin to feather us

Into lovesick adults slowly crushed

And sprawled and piled until we eventually

Topple

And the jukebox moon inserts itself again

Into the evening sky. Just kids

To see the glow and hear the quiet roar.

What was that dream in the state park soaked in snow

when the young fawns blinked hello and receded?

You’re in the old Ford again, Curly at wheel

and the other two sighing alphabet games to occupy.

Age 18 or some near variation.

Trotting miles from campus to smell the pines

and listening to learn, to grow — before you knew everything.

 

What is has melted like fields of blue winter

where old deer shrug and drop at hidden barrels.

You’re at the shop again, Ponytail at register

and the fellow clerks hawking pots to pay the rent.

Cold 22 with some lump in your throat.

Sneezing rarely so to hide a bit more self,

and thundering to flee, to find — before your ice dissolves.

Is it in vain to think of crumbling knowns

as green buildings, each fresh land plot razed

to accommodate a new bank a blessing?

Paul Road once vast with oaks becomes a strip mall,

the mountains that you hung your hopes on now

blocked by a sharp steel business school. Say no

to your cold fears. They’re nagging chumps who grind

your intuitions into moot. Abide.

The earth clearing yields bright, different tomorrows.

 

Sip life from coffee cups foreign as fennel,

revel in new clean windows. Pray fast —

not for new hills to hide you, not for groves

of shady blindness, but for slow-dripped silence.

Forget the teachers. Conscience is strangely colored.