I. The Beauty of Boys on Skateboards
For they have clean necks, these boys on skateboards.
Their clothes furl about them, shaken by
wind across their shoulder blades, their jeans
hung by nothing over bony hips. One, two,
three, four, five, they pass, kshoong, kshoong,
in even beat, all but the last, who pushes
harder to stay in line. Each beautiful
as the others, even this last, he too
more beautiful than anything else ---
this street, that sky, cut to battlements by
these buildings-and they are proud, unhumbled,
so long as they shove and roll. I think
they are somewhat like seahorses, curled
in opposite directions, head and tail, top
and bottom, with other humps between.
They bow their heads, feel the rush and hum
across their cheeks and noses. Their hair
whaps, jets; each gathers one knee up ---
corrupted soldier's march form --- then thrums
foot to ground and shoves. From backs
or chests made of rock or music or rock music,
their arms switch or hang, in haughty nonchalance.
Legs kick, feet flick, heads rear. To soften,
to extend these moves, they hang all this
on the dusk a bolted beat. Then heads turn
down again, knee returns ... swift! street's barren!
they're gone, dazzling, swum short-sleeved out
on the laughing, crying tide of April spring.
Rain had our city river coughing up brown
from its impacted bottom. From the bridge
it looked terrible. From the bank it slid
like a stageful of violins. Here is where the boys
fell down under water, slid down, couldn't
get back up. Even dying, maybe the river slime
seemed grotesque, maybe they feared
to touch their naked feet to bottom. Or maybe
it was a great black thrash. Who knows
what colors there are for the drowning.
Their bikes seemed normal, abandoned
on the bank. They left their clothes in sloppy
piles, as if they were from another time,
when one could, as in books, go down a lane
through some woods or a field, jump in a hole
of brown water. Leave clothes on the bank,
fling naked through private air, boy-pricks
twittering, fearful only of a landowner
who'd shoot them. Here is where the sign says
DANGER. It didn't say "rockshelf " It didn't
say "hard current." It didn't say the way
a rescue diver searches for a lost thing
in dark water: dives down, up-out, back, back
down, finally swims to the bank, arms full of boy.
--- From She Didn't Mean to Do It
©2000 University of Pittsburgh Press