Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Strict Form


In 1953, Mary and Bill adopted John,
Five, and his biological half-brother, Leslie,
Three, via Catholic Social Services. Kathy,
Three, followed four years later. Paul
Made his surprise debut in 1960; Danny
Was born in 1962, followed by love-child Lisa.

As far as Danny knows, no one abused Lisa.
Mary and Bill always said that John
Was badly beaten while in foster care. Danny
Recalls that the mother of John and Leslie
Was a drug-addicted teen from the Haight; Paul
Corroborates. Things were always hard for Kathy.

Kathy's mother left twenty-month old Kathy
On a stoop. Yet when Mary gave birth to Lisa,
Lost her right breast, and ate her Nembutal, Paul
and Danny and Lisa turned to Kathy, not to John –
And certainly not to quiet, freckle-faced Leslie,
Who would rape Kathy the next July. Danny

Recalls how Kathy mothered little Danny
and Lisa and Paul; how an angry Kathy
(Given name: "Mary") once got greasy Leslie
To look up from his Harley by screaming, "Lisa
Is mine!" Bill didn't get it. Wasn't it John
The reformatory expelled? Paul

Said lucky John had climbed its steeple. Lucky Paul –
Too young to go to Vietnam! And lucky Danny,
Who would watch dishonorably discharged John
Eat salted octopus from a purple can. And lucky Kathy –
Her boyfriend out-butterflied Mark Spitz. And lucky Lisa
On Mary's knee, beside the vodka. But poor Leslie,

Bill said, at last, to Mary, poor dumbshit Leslie,
Discharged, too – in shackles – at the Alameda. Paul
and Mary and Danny and Kathy and Lisa
Sat in the Marquis to sing, "Welcome home!" Danny
Dove into the no-space between Leslie and Kathy.
Paul said, "I have a machete." Leslie asked, "Where's John?"

Danny begged Leslie for Viet coins and bills
While Mary and Kathy mumbled ten "Hail Marys"
And Paul told Lisa, "Popes say rosaries in the john."

Daniel Bosch

from the TLS (that repository of good taste)