Let us, instead, consider the pockets
Martin Rodriguez sewed onto the insides
of his jacket and pants.
This was 5th grade.
This isn’t about the fact that he got caught
jacking a bunch of shit from Market Spot.
All of us wished we’d thought of it first.
to stay focused on those extra pockets. How
big those caverns must have been—that fortune
of whispered temptation.
Boy-genius, we said.
Pockets for bags of apple-rings, beef jerky. A Pepsi
2-liter. Crunch bars. Cans of Cactus Cooler,
maybe. The lonely monster of desire bent us
away from boyhood, made it something small
that we wanted to toss rocks at.
Rolls of Oreos
in those pockets. Enough Doublemint gum
to anchor friends on a green recess field. A few
sheets of temporary tattoos to offer in class
while Mrs. Hawkins continued her lesson
on the Gold Rush.
I can see those pockets
pomegranate when pulled apart: a bloom
of endings across the Market Spot parking lot
as he tried to run. Bomb Pop ice cream bars,
or the cartoon kind with gumballs for eyes,
Look, I am talking about collapse.
As always. The rest of the poem wants to go
like this: I don’t know what happened
to Martin Rodriguez. He never came back
to school. But the truth is he returned to class
the next day.
We stood in a circle, laughing
about what he took until the day Manny
got caught smoking weed. Then we talked
about that until someone’s cousin got shot
after school by the computer lab. We played
Oregon Trail on Thursdays. None of us
could ever cross the river. I kept dying
of snake bite.
We got older and painted walls
for different crews. We became enemies, me
and Martin, drawing exes over each other. We
turned into no one, and then,
finally, we became
fathers. I saw him, years later, with his son.
We crossed each other on the street. Both of us
nodded and kept on moving toward the sidewalk.
So many years collapsing into each other,
Someone has changed the sign
in front of the store. But if I say Market Spot
today, the homie points to where we watched
the cashier jump the counter and snatch Martin
into the air, splicing it with sugar. The sharp kick
of a boy’s legs. A body jolted into enough quiet
that police were called. Officers with notepads,
the cashier waving flies away from his face.
Copyright © 2020 by Michael Torres. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.