When the radio blasted

over the art gallery,

and Jim Morrison crashed

my only reading in the Big Apple,

eyes of famous poets in the audience

averted from my broken smile,

I wasn’t there—I went way past the headlights,

out past unrecorded tribal rubric,

airwaves drumming through me,

flew to a hideout on my own back streets:

Schadhouser’s yard, 1953,

one sticky afternoon

we beat each other up

on the same wedge of dirt

my mother, a little girl, played

Hopscotch on in 1929

between Cronin’s barn and a paint peel

on the fence of a three-decker—

who knows who lived there—

Cid Corman maybe

who moped down Annabel

muttering blessings.

 

That afternoon, my smile might have

made you grimace, too.

It does me, as my fingerprints

corrode this yellowed polaroid

the hostess was so quick to shoot

before she unplugged “Riders on the Storm.”

My father’s gift for the rare

true smile and my grandmother—

cloud hair, morbidly soft skin,

and tyrannical—come back alive again,

come back to me

through this photograph of a shudder

and a trace of alleys and shame

in my disrupted line,

her only recorded history

when, circa nineteen-ten,

she took the hand of the one

who kicked this broken smile

down the staircase of the spine.

 

by Michael Daley

Michael Daley’s poems have appeared in APR, New England Review, Hudson Review, Ploughshares, Rhino, North American Review, Gargoyle, Writer’s Almanac, and elsewhere. Awarded by Seattle Arts Commission, National Endowment of Humanities, Artist Trust, and Fulbright, his fourth collection of poetry, Of a Feather, was recently published. He lives in Anacortes, Washington.

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