One spent nights on the junior high school roof.
My mother had kicked him out when the police told her
he was selling drugs, and before that, selling tires
he stole from gas stations. One stole a teacher’s car
from the senior high school parking lot at lunch time,
got a case of beer, and drove around drunk all afternoon,
then smashed the car’s front fender when he re-parked it.
One threw a Molotov cocktail into a teacher’s home
when the teacher accused him of copying an essay.
The same one beat up his P.E. teacher. One beat up
the leader of a gang. With that gang after him,
he started his own gang, he himself its only member,
and wore a red bandana and red old lady’s jacket
to school every day. No one along the gauntlet
that had been set up to stop him touched him.
Each one headed to “alternate school.” A year or two,
and the school was the bar, the drunk tank, jail.
But each one changed, and turned himself around.
Here we all are, suddenly in our mid and late thirties,
with everyone fooled. Clean-living, clean-looking,
all of us successful, and good middle-class boys.
One a CEO, one a president of marketing… all
with pretty partners, nice cars, nice paid-for houses.
And smilers and jokers around a dinner table.
Until something comes out after a beer or glass of wine
too many, a note in a voice, and we are all there in a row
and looking to either side of ourselves at each other,
trying to see the thing looking out of our faces
as out of cold, dark trees it stands at the edge of
and blends in with, each of us knowing it is there,
each of us ready to kill it, even when we know it is one of us,
though none of us knows which of us it is, only
that it is there and it is a lone, long-absent animal,
starving and afraid and ready to kill, and our father.