Recess Beyond the Old Equipment

There is neither room nor class inside
only the ricochet of stuttering light
blunt scissors, sour milk, peanut butter

but at recess beyond the Old Equipment
behind a wonky grid of cyclone fencing
nothing but desert boots or topsiders
to tamp down blackberries vines
to stamp down bramble thick as a cat’s arm
I hollowed out an os between ringing bells

goose stepped vines strung with berries
like thumbnailed black ushankas
when I couldn’t push down the canes
I pushed up a dome where the drupes
clustered like flies’ eyes
the dark leaf below & the light leaf over

it was not
salvation, not refuge, not crucible
you will not hear of discarded
cigarette clotted beer bottle necks
nor the albumin of latex
nor the ragged tears of a plaid skirt
no moldering body found in leaves
I wasn’t even late for class
innocence, mind, way: nothing lost

it was dirt
under fingernails, the sharp draught
of breath when uncovering a beetle
or a millipede glissade
the effort ran scabs the length of my
arms, & pocked me where my socks
ended & cords began
bent my fingernails so far back they
creased a white stripe

Soon it may become a hermit-crab shell
for someone’s transgressions, future deviance
yet a tired dog does not think while circling
that it is tramping its ancestors’ savannah grass
nor do I when I bend each thorn to the side
with the flat of my thumb till it snaps off

By David Cooke
Semi-Finalist for The 2010 Flatmancrooked Poetry Prize as Judged by Mary Karr

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