Featured image: Shadow glass © A. Anupama 2017
Darington Park phone booth, 8:48 p.m. 1982.
I am a boy sluggish with fear, cutoffs heavy
with quarters, chewing gum, a penknife.
Ants attack the nub of a hot dog in the crabgrass.
Bats dive at moths beneath the greenish streetlamp glow.
Two teenage boys with thin mustaches
smoke pot at the picnic table near their van.
I lean against the phone booth’s bifold door,
try to steady the flight of my voice.
Dear God of the black-charred barbeque,
God of the public urinal, the broken
bike reflector and discarded sweatband,
God of the yellowjackets darting above Dixie cups—
give me the courage to hold on the line
beyond the girl’s dialed number
and her mother’s half-hearted reproach
for the lateness of my call. Let me get past
the nearing footfall and the terror at that soft breath
drawn in just before the cautious Hello,
and let me grasp hold of the solid state
of words. Forgive their katydid greenness
and their powder-winged flutter.
Let me ignore the sitcom laughter
that slips through open windows,
let me not recoil from the shriek
and pop of late June fireworks, but embrace
the slow-train rumble of the blood, nerves untwisting
like chain swings in the breeze.
Let my brain hold fast to the warmth of risk
and damp cedar, to the shine of fresh asphalt, to the weeping
pine and chlorine of the sad city pool. All my life this
single prayer to the soft moonrise of the heart
and every good thing first illuminated there.