When 213b finally opens in a crack of yellow linoleum,
Garrett comes out with the left side of his afro as flat
as the tire that used to be on his mom’s car & the stuck
snick of the cheap door locking behind him sounds exactly
like someone trying to light a smoke with an empty lighter.
Carriage House East, where menthols cough like a window
slamming shut & outside that window, somebody’s radio
is already popping static. What’s left of the moon is popping
white on blue. That’s when we stamp past the squat HUD
brick toward school in the dark: shadow of the green trash
can gang signed with misspellings, a mimeograph of Mickey
Mouse flipping Iran the bird in the landlord’s lit window.
We made the same middle-finger motion to the school bus
before ignoring our bus stop & kept walking neighborhood-
style—right hands skimming from chest down to waist
then behind the back like a bad breast-stroker cupping air.
Cue the sirens snagging the matted air like a cheap pick.
Cue the smoker’s cough of early-morning walks to school.
We strutted a backward lean like every one of the unconcerned
streetlamps alternating between our side of the street
& over there—in front of the fenced-in porches missing slats
like teeth in a punched smile where Garrett’s cousin leaned
against the side of one of the front buildings. She put
two-fingered guns to her temples when she saw us: red patch
of smoker’s skin around her mouth like a raw sun rising.

Copyright © 2013 by Adrian Matejka. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 22, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.