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Jeffrey McDaniel

(1967 / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Day 29, Where The Self Divides


1.
Loneliness is a privilege, and I'm grateful
for the afternoons I had as a child

to feed the crocodile I invented in my closet.
How the knob's wood expanded in my hand

when I threatened my friend with death.
Twenty years later he still has nightmares

where I get mad and fling open the door.
Upstairs our mothers were one mother
measuring emptiness by the milligram.

Their laughter clung to the ceiling
like helium balloons after a party.

Only they never came down, stayed there
without color or reason. Bruises are genetic.


2.

By age ten we opened a window and snapped
our jaws at the world. A flashlight's subtle patch

on pavement rendered bewilderment
in nearly all who passed. A bucket of water

dumped from three stories up
onto the reliable shock of a stranger

made out hair electric, teeth sharp: milk bottles,
barbells came next. By twelve we slithered

from the house's skin, graffitied crack
room, rascal in the narrow throats of Philadelphia

and knocked over trashcans with our tails.
Under the dank wings of older kids on corners

we learned how to steal a chump's heart
without saying a word. By sixteen the boomerang

of anger curved back at us. My fingers trace the hemline
of a frenzy, passed down through the family
like an heirloom we can all squeeze into.

Each day I carry a colorless balloon and walk
my crocodile through the same streets.

Kids look at me funny, but I've got thick skin
and a firm belief in multiplication.

Submitted: Thursday, February 14, 2008
Edited: Thursday, February 14, 2008

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