Tens and eight

We were tens and eight, my brother,
the dead boy, and I. An August
sleepover, backyard pup-tents
and kerosened silhouettes of finger-bats
and cluck-knuckles, and in the morning
snuck out on our goose-necks
for Calabazas Creek, the squidge

of tadpoles burping around
beer cans and the rusted ribs of a ditched
trolley. It was they who shared
freckles, he and Danny, like a secret
language as we skimmed bottle tops
off the greasy swill, flicking dog-ends
and grotty screws, squinting in the grubbed

heat as I nudged a comma of sweet sap
from a filched waffle with my sun-burnt
tongue. What I want to say is that, looking
back, I saw it coming in the light shuddering
off the mottled water, or that there was
something in the way his body blinked
in the haze as we skittled for our bikes

that signalled he was going or was already
gone; that what we saw crumple between
fender and gravel was something other
than everything, that even now there are
ways of shifting your focus from the ruined
faces round that wreck, deciphering
freckles, distinguishing shoes.

from A Lens in the Palm (Carcanet, 2008), © Kelly Grovier 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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