By Dennis Caswell
The Boy and the Alphabet
A small boy charges a mob of pigeons,
chasing them into the air as if he were kicking
a pile of leaves. Maybe he does this
instinctively, a newly formed omega male
bullying what he can bully, impatient to know
how close he can get to the front of the alphabet,
but maybe during some future assault
he’ll notice how their bodies and wings
tessellate the air as they flee, how they never
collide and collapse like clowns, as if each one
knew all along which way it would fly.
And maybe the boy will decide that he likes beauty,
because it doesn’t hurt and doesn’t make him want
to hurt it back, because it’s a kind of power
that doesn’t use force, and because it can feel like
opening, gently, clothed in light that fits your skin.
Maybe he’ll even decide that beauty
can make you feel that being alive and a boy
in a mob of boys is not so bad, as long as you know
which way you can fly, and maybe he will.
I ask you to spell pamplemousse
then stop listening halfway through
because all I wanted to do
was watch your philtrum
tug the tip of your nose
as you say M or P,
as if your nasal dorsum
caught a fish. I tell you this,
and the ends of your smile stretch up
and out like your arms when you wake,
pooching your cheeks into perches
to which the passerine birds of my eyes
instinctively fasten. Into your eyes
I shall now attempt
my most death-defying
is one of the words I recall
as we rub and shudder,
making heat rise like rain in reverse
to gather in clouds that tumble the welkin
above our whoopee. I wanted to be
an astronaut, and here I am
in a falling float, boosted so high
I can see the curve. Look, there it is:
That’s where we’re going to splash down.
That’s where we’re going to have our parade.
Dennis Caswell is the author of the poetry collection Phlogiston (Floating Bridge Press). His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Rattle, Crab Creek Review, and assorted other journals and anthologies. He lives outside Woodinville, Washington, and works as a software engineer in the aviation industry. His dorky and not-very-compatible web site may be found at denniscaswell.com. If you want to give him a present, you can’t go wrong with Bassetts Jelly Babies.