About a Mile from Home
Bobby Steve Baker

Todd: seventeen, tough age to be a man.
First time rent-a-Tux, black plastic shoes, last ones,
half a size too small, tough shit. This Prom Thing Sucks.

His mom gets the corsage, smile for the photos.
If you’re drinkin call me. Yeah, Mom that’s the plan.
He picks up Drew; they fire down a half pint,

then the long gowned girls, all giggles
in the back seat of another world.
The Formal’s a joke, Todd drinks til his shoes don’t hurt.

Near light he drops the others off, aims home.
In a head nod he blinks long with penny heavy lids.
Dreams albino hunting dogs tree a strange white coon.

Night bleeds into morning, slow burning
layered vapor off the boat-roll rise and fall of country road.
Headlights beam through shadowed pines, jerk once, stop dead.

Lights and sirens rip Sunday in, no one holds a shred of hope.
Hours just to quell the flames, get out the remains,
then only bird song in quiet air. Neighbors stare at the fresh scarred tree,

seized by a voyeuristic twist, the need to sense
mortality’s debris. Death has a taste when it comes just close enough
to leave its heat, dry cumin on the tongue.

At noon people push to make way for his sister,
eight years old, she leads Todd’s blue-tick hound
who sniffs the darkening stains, raises his head,

howls hollow, long, the fundamental
chord of grief
that no one else could speak.

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