Turning Tar

 

He knows some women need a man so bad they will

share their bed even after he tells them he’s a drifter

country western single, just passing through

 

he tries to make it easy on the kid when he moves in

takes an interest, shows the boy how to turn tar into

chewing gum, like his mother’s boyfriend showed him

 

but when this little boy laid his love for the man

on the ground, at his feet, spent and wounded and

waited for him to gently pick it up by the nape of the

neck and return it

 

the man saw trouble, identified the signs, knew it was

time for him to move on, leave the rented mobile home

with chrome and pearl gray linoleum kitchenette counters

 

time to shake the woman loose because she had to learn

to let men like him go, if she didn’t, the next one could be

meaner, worse to the kid

 

her son wants to fetch the man back, but there’s nothing

left of him his mother warns, pours diet soda and gin

into the groan and crack of ice

 

into the afternoon his thin-soled sandals sticking to hot

asphalt crust, blisters forming on the bottom of his feet

the boy follows the road the man may have taken

 

until realizing someone who had somewhere better to go

has gone, he bends to poke a Popsicle stick at a bit of

black liquid tar he will later chew as gum.

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