Tuesday, January 25, 2011

As a pack

We were like tribal nomads
forgetting what society dictated at school
Giving into instincts and urges,
we reveled in our primal roots

We wandered the streets and woods as a pack
with an unspoken, but agreed upon, leader
Until a mother called us back to civilization,
tempting us with a hot meal or comfortable bed

We’d gather on summer mornings
and set off for Mt. Baldy
This was our name for it
Although it was really a butte

We’d pack pocketknives, BB guns, and matches,
stopping at Kienows to trade empties
for Shasta pop and Hostess pies
(A nickel a can; brand names were ten cents)

We’d walk through the relatively new
suburban homes to the trail
And make our way past shady trees
to the clearing on top

We’d celebrate and reenact the battles
of cowboys and Indians or the “big” war
Imitating what we’d seen on TV,
hurling slurs we’d not admit today

Wounds, imagined and real,
were part of the game
Becoming lore for friends
and our yet unimagined children

Occasionally we’d go over the top
down to a creek on the far side
It was someone’s farm, I realize now,
to catch frogs or salamanders

Some we’d maim or kill in ritual fashion
which I’d watch with a fearful pain
No one noticed I was unable
to participate or protest

The surviving creatures came home,
displayed in jars or tanks on dressers and desks
Unfed and neglected in murky water
they would die with little recognition

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