Better Than The Boy

Jack showed me how to run
Through the woods
Not necessarily along a trail

Not necessarily after something
Not necessarily toward something

Necessarily running
Stirring up the wood’s smells

Mushrooms rotting
Leaves rotting
Twigs turning into soil with the rest of it

Up the hill and down the ravine
The un-fresh stream
Behind the postwar suburb houses

This one with charred aluminum siding
Where the eldest son
Burning with some rage

Expressed himself
Then he ran off with Jack
Who knew how to be a dog

Better than the boy
Knew how to be a boy

Down and down
Toward the High Street culvert
Below Saint Michael’s

Where Catholic apartment dwellers
Walked their bully sons to mass

While Presbyterians
Sat their bully sons
In white painted more pure balconies

The priests at Saint Michael’s
Built a garden
Before the war

Low walls of circles and squares
Arches of bricks and stone
No longer in the maintenance budget

By the time Jack and I arrived
It was falling apart
The better for it

Not old enough for real old
But old enough for me

Old enough
Catholic enough
To keep me interested

We ran away together
From the home work
Impossibly charred family duties

Past my tree house
Past my dams
As fast as rabbits down the ravine

I ran through huge webs
With big yellow-coated spiders
Straddling the trail

Jack ran under them
It was his joke

Making my skin crawl
With life
And on we ran

He brought me again and again
To the unkempt Priest’s garden
Which got its magic

Not from priests
But from yellow-coated woods spiders

And from Jack
Who knew what was funny
Who knew what was holy


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