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Eleven, Pennsylvania

The neighbors’ chatter

and bagpipes practicing

over a wiffleball argument

were lazily percolating outside

in the shadowy yards

that summer night when

I was eleven in Pennsylvania.


After dinner for some reason,

I was sent to bed early

for trying to grow up

in a crooked country,

where the President lied

to our family on TV.


My father is cutting the grass

with an old hand mower and

thinking about ordinary

two-stroke burning of

gasoline and dulled blades.   

Sycamores murmured. Sunflowers lilted.

We had planted ourselves in May,

and now we were as tall as the eaves,

waiting to be cut into October.

There were ten thousand

branches and bugs in the trees.

That evening, I lived a long day

of eleven years, and tried to sleep 

in a slant of guilty light. I must

have done something worthy

of solitary—like drive mother crazy

or utter some blasphemy

of the century, or think dark

thoughts in public

like a bad Catholic.

Tree top secrets of mad

ideas were buzzing off into

America’s disgraced August

in a golden shell of dried

dirt and dust. It was a crowded

night in a lonesome room.  

Busy insects of concerted

rattling in America’s ears

changed tenses of life and death

We were nothing but flimsy

wings shaking spirits out

of our bodies,

like they said Jesus did, if I had

thought of Jesus, katydid,

and the cicadas trading fours, katydid

the jazzy circadian cicadas,

going dizzy in the summer night, katydid

and we not far away, just inside,

somewhere down the road

a smooth, elegant connoisseur,

enjoying the shakin’ cicadas

to shake out of it, katydid,

before gone are the cicadas,

before the summer of empty

bodies, katydid, and comes a bitter fall

of the humid, sweet end of days.

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