Altar Boy Highlights
The time for ringing bells
had come. The words from the priest
had come. The nudge from the boy next to me
had come. So I rang. Hard. Twice.
Perfunctory, still, knowing
this was my body, shaking,
released by another, I rang. I rang
the fiery jingle from its triangular
handle, snug between fingers,
and then this silence, this dry-mouthed,
chapped cajolement to silence,
a cut-down transport from brass
rostrums, a look round for body
and bloodthe signal
we couldn't come along. Oh! Oh,
gentle people who have made it
this far, my boons then spanned galaxies,
doubly proud to be thin-necked,
to sing, teeth-clenched, to power ballads.
I twirled among red gourds in the yard.
Prayers were cicada chirps
from apple trees. I dragged mops
up aisles, nose upturned
from holy ammonia. Sometimes,
my stomach still sweet with cereal,
the gurgle and fires from candles
released some voice from an eye socket,
a squeak, a gray nap somewhere
through this, my facilitating life.
Ornette Coleman, Live at the Golden Circle
Three years before a twinkle
appeared in my daddy's eye,
my prenatal legs trotted
across the tundra, grabbed my body
like another's body, pouted
outside in the snow. Muted cymbal clangs
curled diner's feet. Legs footsied,
crease after dry-cleaned crease.
Three years before he felt up
my mother's thigh beneath
a Philly diner table
and she pinched hard, angry, back,
I swatted aftershave on my cheeks.
Chasing her down Market Street
to get her number, we said to ourselves
in the restroom mirror,
You handsome devil.
Tonight, you're gonna be on a record.