I Grew Up on School Street

(for Peter Ramos)

Listening to the piccolo
notes of the bobolink,

sunk in suburban ether,

memorizing my favorites
hubcaps and doorbells

and gloomy maples. I pictured

the flowers naked, I put fat hearts
on my lower-case i’s

when I changed
my name

to Mississippi
in secret. Every fall

it was the same
opera of housefires

in the trees, the same
conveyor belts
of ornaments breaking

on the branches,
but nothing scared me
like the beet-faced men
in my neighborhood

buffing their lawnmowers
and grills. Nothing scared me
like watching those men
snap open

newspapers to pictures
of planes crashing

into epitaphs of script.
Some days I watered

the spider plants with my
water pistol and shot

the little marble-bodied
bees off

the forget-me-nots.

I poured
soda into anthills

and watched
them perish

in a sweet rush. I was young
enough to be

forgiven for all

that. Now
I come back

and watch School Street
east toward the University
of the Dawn

and feel undecided
about my use

of space, how I can only
face one direction

at a time. And
I don’t even know

what I look like
looking back

at the heart attack
of lawnmowers

dragging these sad men
behind them

crewcutting the grass,

shaving every green
thing down to dust,

while whiffs of exhaust
and barbeque smoke

rise up
to that part of the sky

just above the trees,
which must be

where heaven starts
to be just
out of reach.



Gregory Lawless’s poems have appeared in such places as Pleiades, The National Poetry Review, The Journal, Third Coast, Sonora Review, The Cincinnati Review, La Petite Zine, Cider Press Review, and many others. He is the author of I Thought I Was New Here (BlazeVOX, 2009) and Foreclosure (Back Pages Publishers, 2013).