The Big Hurt
Bad enough he peed on your Red Ball Jets.
Now, he rides a Schwinn ahead of you in a rainstorm,
and just as you catch up and shift to pass
he spurts ahead, tying a ribbon of water into a bow
around your face, one drop of which infects your lung.
Winter comes. You chain your bike, and thoughts
of getting ahead fade, like old bruises.
Spring comes and green doors open,
but suddenly there he is, building a new
home so tall the roof cancels sunrise.
His kids ride their bikes up and down
the oak tree in your yard, turning the leaves blue
and the branches red. Now his wife
poses naked in her bedroom window
and before you can turn away she cracks
a wicked smile. Christ, she must be the one
who drove across the lawn last evening!
Thank God she doesn’t have wings
or surely she would poop on your car.
It can’t get any worse, and at least
you’ve come to terms with it. You eat dry toast,
drink a glass of sour milk, and walk to work.
But look, his entire family gathers
at the sidewalk café outside your building
with banners and tassels, fireworks and root beer.
A parade sweeps you down the street,
girls twirl batons and marching bands play
a brassy version of an old Stevie Wonder hit.
As his sons carry you through the crowds
someone shouts, “I think it’s the President!”
Others laugh and recognize your face
from the Pez dispensers being handed out.
Yes, there’s your face molded in red plastic.
When someone pushes on the back of the plastic head,
your clacking jaws puke sugar.
John Cullen attended SUNY Geneseo and currently teaches at Ferris State University in Michigan. His chapbook, TOWN CRAZY, was published by Slipstream Press, and his work has recently appeared in The MacGuffin, North Dakota Quarterly, and the American Journal of Poetry.