where we grew up
is July, always July,
and Frank is eating a Bombpop
as slowly as he eats anything, even today.
The ice cream man is at the corner,
his bell hanging thick in the air
for a last instant
and then dying slowly away
like the last day of the circus.
We are content
sitting on the Johnson’s porch
eating our popsicles.
The older first-in-line kids are finished
the medium-me-tag-a-long kids almost
burrheaded flatheaded cherrybearded Frank
is out in the yard, ready to start on white.
Four dogs hover around him—
crafty, experienced, been-around-the-block dogs.
They can jump as high
as his whitish blue arm can hold.
Keith Luttrell, youngest big kid,
and skinny as the Push-Up stick he chews to a stub
like his old man’s cigar, is saying,
get up on the porch Frank,
before them dogs get your ice cream.
But the road to safety is blocked
by our own English setter Randy
who is no traitor or lover of Bombpops
but just another tail-sniffing flunky
in B.J. the boxer’s dog army.
I’m sitting on the second porch step
drowning ants that dare to crawl
on my discarded popsicle stick
with long thin well-aimed premeditated strings of spit,
as interested as anyone is in his little brother.
Frank is yelling
Git Randy Git Randy Bad B.J. Bad B.J.
waving both hands, jumping, tripping over dog legs,
unable to take a bite of white, his favorite,
as the blueberry blue falls like the sky down his arm.
He tries to kick Randy out of the way, misses, stumbles back,
holds his Bombpop like a quarterback handing off,
Keith Luttrell yelling, Watch behind . . .
as B.J. leaps
—suspended dolphin at Sea World—
The silence of no Santa Claus fills the air—
that infinite moment when flies stop buzzing—
birds gasp wind hides trees hush—
that infinite ear-crushing moment in time
that is an older brother laughing
before his younger brother begins to cry.