Horizontal Hold

A mob of drunk college students stole
my Support Our Troops/Stop the War
sign on a Friday night and marched down
the street chanting some slur I could not
decipher. I sat curled at the cold window,
smoking the glass.

A young, coatless girl, long blond hair
streaming, stumbled past in tight jeans.
In high school, I never thought about Vietnam
but would’ve done anything to get inside
those jeans—yank up a sign, cuss out
some old fart, take a side she took.

Early November, and still, one brilliant tree
flaming in the park. That Friday night,
she was that tree. Saturday morning,
I found the torn sign among red beer cups
and random trash on the steps of the party house

and taped it together, stuck it back in my yard.
Democracy sometimes means as much
as the word interesting. I haven’t been stoned
in a dozen years, but I wanted to get stoned.
To be a flaming tree.

I rang the bell, pounded on the door, hoping that,
hungover, they wouldn’t kick my ass.
It’s Mister Old Fogie to you, buster.
But no one answered. Young people for war?

Who messed with the on-off switch
or the horizontal hold? Those kids
too young to know that knob, yet old enough
to be Over There. Bring those kids home
so they can get drunk and commit small
random acts of destruction.

I’d take that, I decided, walking away
from the debris, heading to the park
to look at that tree one more time
before the leaves fell.

Jim Daniels’ fourteenth book of poems, Birth Marks, was published by BOA Editions in 2013 and was selected as a Michigan Notable Book, was a winner of the Milton Kessler Poetry Book Award, and received the Gold Medal in Poetry in the Independent Publishers’ Book Awards. His fifth book of short fiction, Eight Mile High, was published by Michigan State University Press in 2014.

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