Striplings

By Atsuro Riley Atsuro Riley
                                                      1. FIELD

Truck a passel (a poke) of wildling boys

                                            We call ourselves (our pack) the orphan-slaves

Upcountry — loosed from mothers

                                                                   Farmed out for scratch by mamas

Pale (pink-backed) tobacco-crew

                                      Bossed by peeled-stick (breakback) donkey-switch

Tarred cropper-force

                                                                                              Forced cropper-line
Right far afield past Social Knob

                                                                                Dark welty field near Luris


                                      2. BUNKHOUSE

Most nights the boy they called Tynan
suppered us with scrapple from a can. Or some black-eyes
he’d’ve road-begged; a quarter-peck of crowders
scrounged off vines.


The broad back-skin on the tallest boy
   —a (spreading) welt-weave, a lattice.


Last good gloam-minute after work
we’d strip off there in the side-yard, yawping; taking turns
de-tarring      un-burning
arc-aiming cool hose-spray each on each.


Eleven of us / chigger-scritches, scablets.
Eleven of us / none of us clean.


Where the boss of us bore down
on us — our rank of   bedrolls on the floorboards — one and
one and one, eleven of us — ranked sack-beds
on floorboards — boots of — black breath of — the boss


of us bearing down on us — ain’t none
of us (not a one of us) clean.


                                        3. AFTER-ROAD

           And so (the heaving) boys got trucked to CANDY'S STOP
up Hwy. 52 one night and dumped.

NOTES: Read the Q&A with Atsuro Riley about this poem

Source: Poetry (December 2012).

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Poet Atsuro Riley

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Living, Coming of Age, Youth, Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Town & Country Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Series/Sequence