Paperboy

By Melanie McCabe

At twelve, I could only see the seventeen-year-old boy
as a gift. A fluke from God.  More real to me 

now than his face — his bicep in the twilight, his stack
of undelivered Evening Stars, my shoe 

stubbing at the shafts of grass that violated
the driveway bricks.  I have no memory of language — 

only of loitering, lingering far past curfew to circle
each other as leaf-cindered air turned gray, as 

the huge shadow of the hickory, cut from sudden
streetlight, swallowed us from view.

What words did I say that made him return, dusk
after dusk, throughout that smoky autumn?

My mother was lost in steam, stirring.  My father fell
asleep beside his Manhattan, the half-read mail.

I dawdled along the yard's perimeter, knowing longing
without knowing what I longed for.  The voice 

that rose in him was bass — my own voice,
vibrato.  I was reedy — a flute.  A straw.  Desire 

outstripped my body.   His bones were tall — head
lost in the hickory limbs.  He smelled of something

I knew.  Like nothing I knew.  He came to me
from the top of the street.  He lived nowhere

I'd ever been.  But every morning I split his window
with dangerous light.  I lodged like a splinter in his day.

There was nothing to see and no one saw it.  In fireplaces,
crumpled news crackled and lit; red embers breached 

the chimneys.  Something broken beat and beat the air  —
a shutter, unhinged — a warped door that wouldn't close.
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About Melanie McCabe

Melanie McCabe is a high school English and creative writing teacher in Arlington, Virginia.

Her work has appeared on Poetry Daily, as well as in The Georgia Review, The Massachusetts Review, Barrow Street, Quarterly West, Nimrod, Harpur Palate, The Evansville Review and numerous other journals. Work is forthcoming in The Carolina Quarterly and CALYX.

She was a finalist for the 2009 Pablo Neruda Prize.

4 Comments

  1. Posted May 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful poem. Thank you for this.

  2. Posted May 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I have goosebumps & butterflies; I had to read through this twice and still feel moved and uncertain and melancholic. Wow.

    Thank you, yes.

  3. Posted May 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been there. You made me remember such similar moments. Such hair raising confusion and infant lust. I loved your poem. Thank you.

  4. Christina Shah
    Posted July 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Love it. Just gorgeous- thanks for sharing this.

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