we were riding out to an abandoned farmhouse
on his pearl black Triumph

deaf to the sound of bleating sheep

that was when he told me it was the same model
James Dean had swapped for
three days after

they’d finished filming East of Eden

I tried to tell him that was cool but he didn’t act
like he’d heard me
so I hugged him tight

and set my head on his shoulder

and watched how the yellow moon was shifting
behind the pines
like the face of a jailbird

he’d told me before that his wife knew he didn’t
swing her way
but she was keeping quiet about it

for their kid’s sake

we rumbled into the dry grass and started cutting
through the cornstalks

into a big clearing where he kicked
the bike stand
and told me to get off

he tossed his chrome aviators and then we started
our hike to the farmhouse
which was sagging in the field

opposite of us

we were quiet on the way like a couple of thieves
about to rob someone blind

I stood back as he tore a warped door
off the barn
and flung it into the gravel

inside the air was dusty and thick and the moon
was still with us
cocked behind a streaked window

like we’d traded places

and now we were the jailbirds serving a lifetime
sentence without parole

John pulled off his steel-toe boots
and told me to wait for him
up in the hayloft

I left my loafers there and climbed a wood ladder
until I was looking into the eyes
of a great horned owl

he kept shaking his head
like he couldn’t believe what was about to happen

I was going to be John’s first

but while I was gathering the wet straw
I smelled smoke
and slid back down the ladder

that was when I saw the fire licking the crossbeams
and ran outside

John was passing through the wheat
like a final judgment

his figure was muscled with flame and I kept silent
as he reached for a head of grain

and burned it to the ground

More Poems by Zack Strait