He had curly brown hair
and a wooden leg.
I was tall and straight,
untouched by adversity.
We were seven.

Children called him Paulio
without a whiff of malice,
lining up for the novelty
of knocking wood —
playing knick-knack on one small knee.

I called him Paul
and carried his books,
always setting my pace to his.

We mapped music together
after school,
priming piano keys
with chocolate crowns
raided from Mama’s secret stash.
Chip for note, one for each.
Gobble – plink – giggle,
giggle – gobble – plink …

In the half-dappled shade of time,
instrumental memories
blink and fade like fireflies,
as moments relived
run the full scale of emotion.

Unflappable Paul —
boundless blue eyes, crooked grin.
Every feature lingers
in clear  focus —
each scene replays
to the tune of tenderness.

One muddy afternoon
I saw him fall in the ditch.
and ran to him … crying.
The woman driving by
saw only that he was down
and I was up.

She screeched to the curb,
blasting, lambasting me
through an open window
with her closed mind.

Push him?
I would have carried Paul
through flying bullets
on bloody feet.

My shoulders drooped all the way home,
but not from the weight of his books.



2011 Mary Boren
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