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“Teach Us to Number Our Days”

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In the old neighborhood, each funeral parlor
is more elaborate than the last.
The alleys smell of cops, pistols bumping their thighs,
each chamber steeled with a slim blue bullet.

Low-rent balconies stacked to the sky.
A boy plays tic-tac-toe on a moon
crossed by TV antennae, dreams

he has swallowed a blue bean.
It takes root in his gut, sprouts
and twines upward, the vines curling
around the sockets and locking them shut.

And this sky, knotting like a dark tie?
The patroller, disinterested, holds all the beans.

August. The mums nod past, each a prickly heart on a sleeve.

Rita Dove, “ ‘Teach Us to Number Our Days’ ” from Yellow House on the Corner (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1989). Copyright © 1989 by Rita Dove. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Yellow House on the Corner (1989)
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“Teach Us to Number Our Days”

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