The school year Mrs. Gerner was our den mother she had

a nightclub act at a midtown hotel with a horseshoe bar


She practiced with her partner during cub scout meetings

while we cut and pasted construction paper teepees

for wildlife badges and completed our outdoor worksheets


Her partner, Juliette, played the piano and Mrs. Gerner sang

Her son, Bobbie, often explained that Mr. Gerner traveled

on airplanes and was looking for a house in Pittsburgh

Bobbie was the only cub scout who lived in an apartment

and owned a pair of binoculars and a championship yoyo


The architect had drawn the apartments three in a row

with vaulted roofs, red bricks, cement stoops, nine windows

in each building, nine panes in each window, each with paper

shades pulled down, faux white shutters, pine trees never planted


The architect’s signed drawings hung in the entry of each building

which will explain a man’s memory and a boy’s reality,

given that the following October the acorns dropped early

and Bobbie Gerner didn’t come back to school


Which doesn’t explain why a passerby twenty years later

doesn’t see children as one might have seen them then,

hands on each side of their faces, noses and foreheads

pressed hard against window panes, looking out into frost,

waiting patiently for Bobby Gerner’s mother to return

and finally award them their insignias, their Wolf badges,

the promises made to them as children by people like Mrs. Gerner

who so carelessly leave their trash in the hallways of deceit