By Rita Dove
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 (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1989)