In the Shade of Weeping Willows
by Kyle Hemmings
We steal battered cars, abandon them by the river. We flirt with girls, flighty as leaves, hypnotize them with our moist grins, our too tight zippers, our hidden weapons of erotic destruction. Like a form of black magic, we nuke the night until it becomes day. We fall asleep in leaking bathrooms, hitting our heads on the edges of things on the way down. After we awaken, our little sisters jiggle doorknobs, crying out "Open up, got an emergency!" We grow and hitchhike and learn to mistrust the profiles of strangers, question the end stop of the journey. Ours or theirs? We separate, but not totally, from gangs, cliques, swellings of beefy blood-stained egos. We resign ourselves to pushing our stroked-out fathers in wheelchairs, or decode the scribbled lists of our mothers with the shaky hands. Is dementia in our genes? Will we die alone? We shop for stinky fish in out-of-town markets to please our widowed father-in-laws. Some are chemo survivors; some are too skinny to feel anything. We learn to love both sides of the moon, while grieving the loss of the mucky paradise we called childhood, that we called our neighborhood. When we were too young to live anywhere else but on the shady side of the street.