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Street Boy

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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

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

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Street Boy

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