Street Smarts                                                    

            It didn’t seem like much
            At first –
            The placement of the ball
            An inch or so behind the line,
            Which really wasn’t fair:
            He got what he deserved

            But Anthony, my friend,
            Took things a bit too far

            He said he wouldn’t let Jake up
            Until he begged for mercy, 
            Which he did about a half a dozen times
            But had to take another half a dozen
            Punches on the ground

            Naturally we laughed
            And soon it was too dark to play
            So we went home

            Later that night we heard
            Jake beat his younger sister to a pulp
            And with a bunch of other guys
            Outside the neighbourhood
            Jumped Anthony and
            Broke his two front teeth

            My father told me
            Not to get involved

            That didn’t make much sense

            I kept my head down low
            And let things settle for a while
            And picked my time:
            I had it all planned out
            And didn’t tell a soul

            Because the playground wasn’t safe just yet
            I hung around the school one afternoon

            Jake’s sister spotted me and 
            Asked me why I had my hockey stick
            In summertime

            It was kinda hard to talk to her,
            Especially when she said
            That she and Anthony
            Had broken up for good
            When she came back from where she went
            To get away

            Her brother strutted by
            And if she weren’t there
            I would have done what I set out to do,
            For not just one

            Instead I squeezed my hands around the blade
            And kept my eyes on Janice as he passed

            She told me she was half to blame
            And that he’d never touch a hair of her again
            Unless he wanted to be dead – that’s what
            Their father vowed 
            After he nearly broke his nose

            Anthony, my friend, was toothless for a time,
            A badge of honour
            Seeing that it took a gang
            To do him in and that he never even
            Tried to run

            Teeth or not, the girls
            Just couldn’t get enough of him
            Except for Janice
            Who confessed she’d had a bit too much

            I didn’t need or want to ask 
            As we walked home

            We got to know each other pretty well
            That summer, Jan and I

            Her voice, despite the trouble
            For a girl so young,
            Was always easy on the ear,
            A cooling stream that 
            Took the heat and sting
            Out of revenge –
            And envy


            Emanuel E. García, Wandering Bark2013