Street Boy

By J. Allyn Rosser b. 1957
The afternoon slows down, the town in steady rain.   
That one with the trendy chicken-plucked look—   
hair a tufted circle on top, the rest shaved all around—   
I can't really care about. Of course I hope   
he grows up without totalling himself and his car,   
but he's the clown in this act. He seems even   
to know his place as unworthy twerpy follower   
of the one no one would look away from for long,   
whose James Dean stance, hands deep in pockets   
of a rattily natty maroon corduroy blazer,   
shoves his shoulders nearly to his ears.   
Beneath the blazer, long sulked-in jeans,   
oversized black boots. He lifts one   
to kick a milkshake someone couldn't finish   
standing on the sidewalk, and it lands on   
its side, explodes and rolls a vanilla graffito,   
expletive unfurling. Expressionless himself.   
The other boy smirks before the rain douses   
and sweeps it stupidly into the gutter.   

Even if I were not invisible through this darkish window,   
they would know how to erase me. Well,   he would.   
I would enjoy that, just to see how he would do it,   
what sort of panache he'd pack in his shrug.   

Raining harder, and the tuft-headed one shifts   
unhappily under the Revco awning, pivoting   
his whole body now and then to see what the one   
I'm half in love with's doing, fifteen, maybe sixteen:   
he's twitching in sublime irritation, lighting up   
again, hard to do with both hands in your pockets   
but he pretty much manages no problem, and now   
comes the move that gets me. He strides out   
from under the awning, a spotted Lucky sticking straight   
from his lip, walks two buildings down and turns   
at the corner so his back's to Main Street and me,   
stands, his twitch becalmed at last, stands   
without heeding his friend's pleading   
jeering calls, you idiot, you idiot, you
idiot, stands hunched, not looking up or down,   
and I can tell this is his moment, this is where   
he'll break off, he's going to unload everyone,   
he doesn't blink as he hawks up their nothingness   
and spits, feeling himself filling with what's left:   
he takes possession of his spirited bad luck for good   
and mounts and rides it without moving a muscle, stands   
letting the rain collect behind his collar and drench   
his gloriously inappropriately maroon corduroy   
and his hair that looks not combable by anyone   
alive, wild and bunched even when the rain   
has patted keeps patting at it harder and harder   
like an obsolete humiliated hand that wants to   
feed and fend for and in general do for him,   
and he has turned his back at last on the clown,   
and on Main Street full of clowns you can both see   
and not see, who wouldn't dare try to keep an eye on him   
or try to follow him from now on.

Source: Poetry (May 2000).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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May 2000
 J. Allyn Rosser


J. Allyn Rosser was born in Pennsylvania and attended Middlebury College in Vermont as well as the University of Pennsylvania where she earned a doctorate. Her works include Bright Moves (1990), winner of the Morse Poetry Prize; Misery Prefigured (2001), winner of the Crab Orchard Award; Foiled Again, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize; and Mimi's Trapese (2014). Her poetry has also been published in such periodicals as . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Friends & Enemies, Living, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Relationships, Coming of Age

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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