For Bernice

November 17, 2006

(but really for all the boys who’ve ever cheapened their talent for a smoke)

Walk tall, sweet girl.
The boys will never notice how long it took
your legs to reach the ground.

Throw open the red doors, past the signs that smoke and curl
and yellow light that falls like loaded dice against the wood.

Walk past the voices, the blue-eyed foreign faces
Have you known them all already, those wood-tough
hands? You read the pages but left the story
The book still open in an empty room.

Let the music recede, let the red doors slam. Out in the streets
the yellow light never fades; the windows refuse
your face. Each new step
falls like the words of some dead language
you already forgot.

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