Cousin Doobie passed me my first joint…
I was thirteen,
we stood beneath the pine trees and he asked me who I liked in class.
I told him no one… he said “That can’t be right, there must be someone.”
So I told him about Jenny
the kiss in front of the basketball trophies.
He punched my arm and said “My man! tell me what happened next.”
Sister Lucille caught us, and despite her palsy, she paddled me senseless,
my ass, a hue of blue I have only seen once, and have yet to see since.
By the third hit of Doobie’s trees, the pine trees and were soft and fuzzy, and the azure sky
puffy with clouds, held an infantile amazement.
“So why don’t you like Jenny?” Doobie’s eyes squinting through the smoke.
“It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s just,
she has a boyfriend and she’s white and black boys aren’t real boys to white girls.”
The sky is filled with Peter Cottontails and clown faces, the happy kind of clown faces, not
the child terrorizing Pennywise scary clown stuff,
and there’s cotton puffs sprouting in my mouth.
And Doobie said “forget that old nun
kiss anyone you wanna kiss as long they wanna kiss you.”
Now it feels as if there is a box of tissues stuffed between teeth and gum and cheek, and all I can do is smile and nod and sit admid the pine needles,
and Doobie prods, cajoles me, tell him more about the real boy bit.
I whisper my parched condition he offers me a swig of my father’s Stroh’s,
it helps but only slightly.
Another swig of beer, and the teary eyed story of yet another classmate; Julie,
prettiest girl with a uni-brow you ever did see; On a dare I asked her to ride the rides with me
(Waldemeer Fun Park, class trip) she said yes, she even held my hand; We rode the Skyride and the Spider and the Tilt-a-whirl
and right before we into the Whacky shack she said it.
“I want to go in here with a boy.”
I don’t know what she thought I was, but I knew what she meant.
and Doobie said “forget that thick eyebrow chic too.”
And with that Doobie became Buddha before I knew who Buddha was,
he preached love and kindness, he was a light-skinned Dr King preaching oneness,
he was Richard Pryor with a southern drawl. He was the only one I ever told about Julie
And then the bunny rabbits and the happy clowns told me to go in the house,
and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pour a big cup of milk,
and watch cartoons. (the Flintstones was on)
So I did just that.
Doobie sat on my parents front lawn, content,
watching the animated sky.
i wish i could leave the scabs alone
write poems to the moon or the soft green glow of the smoke detector, anything but you
anything but four AM moves from the couch to the floor and back again, anything but the mist of bodies absent touch or scent or rhythm anything but the Coltrane playing my head and the chorus of forgotten shoe strings anything but you
but it’s always you isn’t it and when the moon ain’t full there’s still a sliver of something between us and when soft winds blow and the bats flap their wings against a black August sky and church bells are silent, and the spider builds its web in the uncut grass and the cigarette stays unlit and the scars just won’t heal, anything but you, anything but you
anything but you