MY OLD FRIEND, MAY

No flower, May,

curls of stiff whiskers

twisting on her chin,

she bobbed her bulbous knees

through a shaggy robe

hanging over grim toenails

on those afternoons we smoked

on the warped wooden steps

of the back porch of the house

she and Henry rented;

laughed at how crazy our lives were:

me, a grocery boy of fourteen

with a lunatic dad, and here I am

delivering her a cardboard box

of canned soups, stews and baked beans,

Tuesdays and Fridays;

May, so busted and beaten down

she could have been a leaf flattened

on a wet summer sidewalk

I never met Henry, the postal clerk

she rarely saw in daylight,

never knew why she stayed,

lips split and swollen,

staring at treetops smoking,

waiting for him to stumble

up the stairs past midnight

At thirteen, watching May blush

on one of those afternoons

when she spoke his name wide eyed,

lifted her chin bemused

and flicked another ash,

I only knew I didn’t know much

about the darker spirits of spring