The Art of Mistake

Poetry by Demetrius Buckley

Fifth graders huddled goose-like around an empty juice-box.
We played pick-em-up-mess-em before first period,
tumbled in the grass like weed baggies
or stretched out condoms.
His nappy head and mine: him lookin' like Unc',
me looking like a father, while never
knowing a father. Then suddenly he became one,
and vanished into twilight like heat rising. Me, him,
the wavy distortion of spirit.

We dated the same girl: tall, glasses, left arm
burnt which we said she got from reaching
too far into the soul, where man is all lava churning.
We joyrided in cars we stole strong-armed,
her good arm hung out the busted window, sunbathing.
What had us spent like shell casings
was her pool of energy,
so we threw hands by the orange lockers
with hearts carved on them
and initials under R.I.P. like song titles,
not for her love or for bragging rights,
but for how good of homies we were going to be
in the future, sitting in the principal's office
complimenting each other’s
right jabs and uppercuts.

Your cousin turned out to be
my right hand when I saw breath as a flaw.
He told me I had to stand in for you—taller
with lighter skin, my toothprint
in your crooked knuckle like sleep marks
in the morning—because the night before,
you and your youngest brother had played a game,
one bullet: spin, click, spin.
Drunk off bumpy face after that girl we dated
wanted out.
Spin. spin. spin. Her arm digging.
Click. click. click. Your youngest brother
was only nine so you doubled your turn.
Spin. click. click. spin.
and he waited for the next. Click, click...