By ERICA DAWSON
The counselors told us to fucking go
to bed; but, earlier they’d taught us one
more Christian song—
It only takes a spark
to get a fire going—
and we sang
loud as we could. And long. Collected pitch
enough for Angel and, no doubt, just good
enough for all the coming grab ass, good
over the shirt action.
I left to go
find that one counselor awake, the one
with weed, listening to Snoop, instructing, Spark
that fat ass J. God. By the way he sang
that one long A, this guy was hot damn pitch
perfect. Gangsta. He swallowed all the pitch
of the Patuxent night. Made it look good.
I loved him. Yeah, I told him, boy, let’s go
do this and took him in the woods. For one
second the moon opened its eye—a spark—
and closed it.
Then he told me he once sang
himself off a bluff. He ordered, Sang, girl, sang,
instead of sing.
Minus a howling pitch,
the wind is only timbre.
Yo, you good?
he said. I was and it was time to go
talk up the story I’d become, the one
who saw the man in the moon hung like a spark
refusing expiration with each spark
Yes, he did say, Sang
it girl when, really,
all I did was pitch
myself down in the dirt until all good
and dirty. No story. Just girl. No go.
But the fire still went on. And then that one
boy fell right in, a fall leaving just one
hole burned in his windbreaker’s sleeve, the spark
of his embarrassment. The crickets sang,
of course. The lantern crackled. Light and pitch.
The sounds were unpredictable and good
as truth. At that age, it meant stay or go.
Then the pitch of my skin sang at a vagrant spark
lighting up one spot on my thigh. A good
scar. I can go a week and not touch it.
Erica Dawson is the author of two collections: The Small Blades Hurt, winner of the 2016 Poets’ Prize, and Big-Eyed Afraid, winner of the 2006 Anthony Hecht Prize. She is an associate professor of English and Writing at the University of Tampa, and director of UT’s low-residency MFA program in creative writing.