by Donald Levering

Runner Up, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

The neighbor kid behind me

in line, twitching,

with black widow bites down his arms,


about to implode

into obituary.

Or the one in the vacant lot


packing powder in a pipe

to blow himself away

in a blizzard of dirty pigeons.


There’s the guy on the bus

with inflammable breath,

nudging me.


God don’t let that be

my bombshell daughter naked

in a sleeping bag on a public bench


with gaps in her teeth, picking at scabs.

I say to myself

behavior isn’t contagious,


the spray from that vomiting vagrant

can’t infect me with DTs.

But that youth who was caught


letting himself into my home

to stash contraband

and steal heirlooms—


please tell me he’s not

my tunnel-eyed son,

quick with excuses,


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