Poetry by Peter Dunne

Running home, after three bullets burrowed into his flesh,
my best friend collapsed in a heap on his mother’s stoop
and, drowning in his own blood, begged for forgiveness.

With his final breath he did what all good sons do: he lied,
telling Mami everything would be okay, as she, waist-deep
in the night, cradled him in her arms like a little schooner,

guiding her baby, her only son, across uncharted waters,
led solely by the tide of her heart upon a new horizon,
until a wave of paramedics came and pulled him

from her breast. More poured out of them than the world
ever deserved, but true libations tend to come in excess,
for local obits claimed his mother just shy of a year later.

They say her heart, big enough to feed a whole block,
shrank to a pea while she dreamt of her family’s farm
in Mayagüez, P.R., a world she’d planned to return

to with her daughter, hoping the guanabana and palm fronds
would fan away the past like horsetails in mosquito clouds.
But how unjust of me to presume to know how she felt,

or to alleviate my own guilt by sharing in their pain,
since it was I, her adopted son, who taught him
to drink until the bottle no longer reflected his late

father’s face, to triple press X into G-ladies and stars,
and wipe the shell casings clean before loading the clip.
It was I who masked men wanted to hit

with a torrent of hot lead and leave cold in the gutter,
my brown eyes empty as the tears on a bandana.
Out the passenger side window, upon seeing my friend,

hoodied and high, and thinking he was me, they fingered
the trigger until death sang from the barrel—O beautiful end.
Sometimes I wonder if, speeding off in the fog, his killers

considered the consequences of their actions or felt
the undertow of time foreshadowing their shipwreck
into a greater ocean, but only because I know myself:

I’ve been a castaway for so long that home sounds
like a mantra, one I recite sunup and sundown
from the very center of my being. With all I have.