As soon as we decided to beat him
my heart leapt like the first sunrise.
There was no telling how it would go.
I could hear the passionate cries
of feral cats in heat in the long grass
of empty lots as he drove by with Katie
beside him. I could see him speaking to her,
the slow wand of his hand unveiling
the yoke of his words as if under water,
her dark hair unspooling like the tangled ribbons
of shade that hold the woods together. Why should
she go with him with unadulterated teeth
through the golden straw of late June
when my friends are lonely and dangerous?
If we were calmed by the flare of wild mustard,
or bluegills bloodied in the black den
of shallows, if we could ever be calmed,
the boy would still be handsome and sure,
the world open to the stomp of his feet
and the light of his voice. His hair in our fists,
we claimed our inheritance and held his life,
that terrible secret, in the ripe stain of our arms.
—from Rattle #22, Winter 2004
Gary Sloboda: “In high school I had a rumpled old English teacher who gave me a ‘B-’ on every formal essay I wrote. So I handed in a meandering story about breaking into a house I used to live in as a child. He held me after class and told me I could make up the assignment if I read and reported on Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral.’ I did and he gave me a ‘B-’. I have been trying to write poetry ever since.”