The Sound of the Dog Drinking from the Toilet, the Beating of my Heart
I’m thinking about the eleventh grade—the year Freddy was killed.
I still don’t like him, can’t forget his smartass mouth, the way he called me
dirtball, how he laughed at the holes in my bobos. The city mutters:
a car backfiring, a scream—a drunk calling, “Kev, you fuck! Where are you?”
The neighbor’s dog laps through the wall. Every night he comes to drink
his fill. The last time I thought about Freddy was in a dream. In bed with
the woman I loved, he told me to run when he saw Scotty and Bret leap
from the stands at Hetzel’s Field with aluminum bats. Both would eventually
murder. Wrenched awake into memory, I saw him in his cream-colored coffin,
his head much too big, his face swollen beyond human. His mother wanted
the casket open. She needed everyone to see what boys could do to each other.
I wasn’t there when it happened, but I could have been, might’ve cheered
the fists battering his cheeks and jaw until one of them grabbed the pipe
Fred brought with him. Months later, his killer stood slouched, his pocked
teen face glowering as a judge hammered down Life. The woman woke
to my crying. I clung to her scent of sweat and lilac, knowing, even then,
I was a shattered excuse for a man. This is how she left, this is how I let her.
On the way from Orlando to Gainesville, in the middle of a conversation
about stopping for lunch. She had just come back after disappearing again.
Lightning scarred the horizon as she reached to change the channel
on the radio, her sable hair pouring onto my knees. She said she needed
a meeting and wanted me to come. I wish I could say I wasn’t paying attention,
or I didn’t know this was her way of explaining herself: the unanswered calls,
vanishing into men—her terror at anything resembling trust. I told her I’d go
next time, even though I was moving back to Philly in two days. The ice in it,
the cowardly bastard of it. How your cup runneth over, Dog, padding away
into the silence, your heart weightless after quenching your quenchable thirst.
Poem with a UFO Passing Through It
Listen, my buddy Reggie swore he saw a UFO while we shared a sub outside the WaWa on Chestnut Street. A pearl of light rolled across the onyx sky. Reggie reached as if to snatch it.
Airplane, I shrugged.He swore it was a straight up saucer, a close encounter he refused to let go, like his little brother, Jay. In the eighth grade, he found him sleeping on the kitchen floor
when their mother was at work. Jay’s toys were scattered around him.Paint dust flaked from the walls, ceilings, and sills in every room in the apartment block. Their mother was constantly
sweeping it up. Jay was a little pissant pain in the ass who fell asleep anywhere, so Reggie just kept sweettalking Crystal on the phone. A day later, Jay dropped his juice cup, fell down
convulsing beside it. His eyes rolled so far back, Reggie wondered if they’d disappeared into his skull. He died in the emergency room. “This happens,” the doctor said, “when mothers don’t pay
attention to what their children put in their mouths. ”His mother returned to work after wailing for two days. The landlord never did anything about the paint. This is what I’m thinking in this
foodbank line that stretches down the block, rain shattering around me. Reggie and I used to watch the rain together when we were small: rivered gutters, awning waterfalls—asphalt
glistening. One day he started to cough after getting home from his gig at the meat packing plant. Something sat on his chest for a week until he was put on a respirator he never came off.
Brian Heston grew up in Philadelphia. His chapbook, Latchkey Kids, is available from Finishing Line Press, and the full-length collection, If You Find Yourself, won the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Prize. Heston’s poems have won awards from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation, the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, and have appeared in such publications as the River Styx, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Missouri Review, Hotel Amerika, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Ghost Fishing, an anthology of eco-poetry published by the University of Georgia Press, and are upcoming in Tar River Poetry Review.