The Peter Pan Prize
They came out like the measles, overnight, and the next night, and the next,
speckling every mailbox and maple tree, streetlight and sidewalk,
with living skin eruptions, foreshadowing
an eleven-year-old boy’s life, which ordinarily
changed incrementally, like the slow advance of geologic ages.
I killed time counting out-of-state plates
passing through the "Crossroads of the Nation"
enroute to exciting places with exotic names
Tennessee Utah Vermont—until cicada music, its
became a million-fold multiplication,
a cacophonous skirl, a winged swirl,
a life riot arising from the earth, clattering from the clouds.
I loved the living landscape chatter,
their prickly walk and chitinous shells
left as crunchy tokens of transformation.
The fish ate well that year, and the birds,
and I learned what omnipresent meant before I knew the word existed.
The bugs restored my faith in myth.
Maybe there was no Santa, but there could be a Bigfoot. There could.
Or real invaders from Mars. You don’t know;
look at the red-eyed, winged, tractor robots that took over the world.
One morning as we explored our new realm of sound and motion
Johnny Masterson, freckles thick as locusts, took his bat,
the same one that had raised a red locust-welt on my brother’s lip,
picked one unlucky crawler from the sidewalk,
tossed it in the air, and he swung for the fence.
Piff. It went piff
on the end of his bat. The flat sound of death
was swallowed up in the buzz of the living,
the way a funeral procession stops traffic for just a minute,
but one block over everybody speeds along like a swarm of insects.
I don’t know what other bats Johnny may have swung in his day.
Me, I’ve come to measure my life in increments of 17 years.