When I saw the man tuck the boy
under his arm like a chicken
or a football, it made me
remember how after one week
of pre-season my youngest declared
his body was all wrong,
insufficient to take down boys
he needed taken down. Our home
became a chapel to muscle—
bench presses, free-weights, protein
powders, capsules of creatine.
It made me miss my mother.
The way in winter, she’d say,
Don’t breathe, when we walked from
the house to the blue Chevrolet.
She was always begging a doctor
to give us penicillin shots,
something I understand when
my eldest calls from the midwest,
Don’t worry, Mom, but I’m very sick.
I can’t say I’m worried exactly
about the boy under the man’s arm
but I’m not unworried either.
If it were up to me, the man
would set the boy down and they’d hold hands
to cross the dangerous street.
If it were up to me—I hear
my mother cluck. And the rest
of them, too, who watch our lives
like sit-com, like a sports match,
side-splitting amusement for
the honking, neighing, barnyard dead.
Victoria Redel is the author of Woman Without Umbrella, her third collection of poetry.