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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This poem originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2012
 Atsuro  Riley

Biography

Atsuro Riley grew up in South Carolina and lives in California. His heavily stressed, percussive, consonant-rich, free-verse poems conjure up the elemental images of the lives of people inhabiting a specific, acutely portrayed landscape. His poems are dense with impressions, voices, and glimpses of people who have experienced the Vietnam War, rural life, and the South. Though grounded in a world that seems unmistakably North . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

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

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Series/Sequence

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