Issue Thirty-Eight - Summer 2021


By Bill Ratner

I count concrete squares on the way
to school like a gambler counting cards.
Tree roots nudge up the sidewalk.
Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.

I leap at the cross-piece on the power pole,
too high to slap. I always try.
The air smells of school buses and grain silos.
I want to own a panel truck some day,

my name on the side and everything.
Parked alone in the middle of Nicollet Avenue,
a tan, slope-fendered Dodge Town Wagon,
the front windshield cracked, a dotted stain,

smears of barn red, a concave impression
of a head, an unyielding glass pillow.
No hazard tape, no skid marks, no clucking tongues
on porches nearby. No victim. A ghost truck thin as air.

Don’t want to get too close. It’s not a circus
if they don’t sell cotton candy. I scan the car’s front seat,
the mouth of the alley, the empty lobby of the Boulevard Cinema.
Maybe the victim is a mother, a carpenter, a teenager

with a future as unknown as the plot of a detective movie.
A crash explodes a person, bones, skull, teeth.
Up close death, like my father on the bathroom tiles,
legs relaxed as if reclining on a chaise lounge.

Traffic glides by, the normal whoosh
of an early weekday morning,
the smell of vinyl and tire dust.

Copyright 2021 Ratner