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  • Emerson Street, and: The North Game, and: Haircut
  • Joseph Bathanti (bio)

Emerson Street

This is the exact spoton Emerson Street,where August Dolan kicked me

so spectacularly in the balls.I dropped to my knees, whispered Ohand coughed out a baby blackbird—

the aftermath of my innocence,that flew off and took its placein the sycamores with the other crows

gathered to witness my revenge.Dolan twisted out of his coat,but I grabbed his tie,

garroting him one-handed,sizing up his reddening face with my free fist.Even now I feel with pleasure his fat

cheek blacken on my knuckles.Sister Aloysius Gonzaga,Sacred Heart's simian principal—

she favored Zira,the hazel-eyed chimpanzeeanimal psychologist played by Kim [End Page 138]

Hunter in Planet of the Apeswitnessed the entire affairfrom her office, hauled us in,

backhanded Augie so hardhis scorched face peeled by lunch,knocked us both into the marble stairwell

with a titanium yardstick,then whaled the Communionof Saints out of us as we lay there—

prompting the life-size statueof Our Lady of Perpetual Helpto jitter on her plinth,

though she winkedwhen I gazed up at her in my stupor.Birds have testicles,

but keep them hidden,out of harm's way,inside their bodies.

The North Game

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

horace, by way of Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est"

Off the Quadrangle,the statue of Our Lady of Victorypresides like a warhead on its launch pad.Through a portal secreted in ivy, [End Page 139]

we enter the Christian Brothers hermitage,then wind the vault downinto its medieval chapel:coal-dim-glisten, ruby ether,

smoking iconography,the reek of myrrh and niter.The altar: lacy lambrequin;solid gold cross, like a Roman short sword;

chalice, pall and purificator,chalice veil; ciborium, paten;cruets of amber Tokay.At Coach Wheeler's command,

we forty-four kneel.Father Pilarski, a Navy priest,says Mass, in white vestments,the symbol of innocence and triumph—

though it seems a rusethis season of Requiem:Calley on trial for Mylai.Father prays God we win,

in expiation of our sins,that we come away wholein person and faith. Unitedin that desire, we step to the rail,

take upon our tongues the Eucharist;then file, silent, through the minusculenarthex where the bronze tabletlists its roll of faithfully departed,

in relief, above the cast iron holy water font:dead boys from the old wars— [End Page 140] World Wars I and II, Korea, and nowthe inaugural names of our war, Vietnam.

We chant vespers, dirge out the Alma Mater—Under your Towers moves life's eternal Mayas we march down the ramp to the bus,toting sea bags:

helmets, spikes, pads,blue and gold game jerseys—the commingled remainsof all that's been forgotten.

We have no idea what we will walk into,once we cross that colossal bridgeover the Allegheny—where plenty of kids lose heart;

others, their minds; eventheir eternal souls—to play the Trojans,those animals from the North Side.We have no choice.

We've taken an oath.Those of us who return:our parents and girls will be waitingin the school cafeteria.

They'll rise and applaud as we stagger in.On its run along the river,a freighter howls.Endless mills mass black and smoldering,

forging ample steelto convene the Apocalypse.The clocks have been turned back:five o'clock. It's pitch black. [End Page 141]

Haircut

Bagnio Vicas's barbershopwedged the triune nexus of Omega Street,

Hoeveler Bridge, and Hamilton Avenue,its ceremonial striped helix

of whirling red, white, and blue,like prelude to a dream:

Bagnio in broken Englishadmonishing me to "Sit still" on the booster

lanced across the porcelain armsof the chrome chair, jacked

with his lever, swiveled on a whim,revved silver clippers boiling

at my nape, dun strop, heavy-hanging, cadaverous, upon which he scourged

his pearl-handled straight razor.He'd slice my throat if I didn't mind—

the way he spun my head...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-426X
Print ISSN
0032-6682
Pages
pp. 138-144
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-07
Open Access
No
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