Jeffrey Clapp

Behind Deano's

In the woods behind Deano's 
three junked school buses 
ten metal drums
fourteen over-turned hubcaps filled with rainwater 
several odd-shaped scraps of tin
nothing that hasn't been beat up
shot or bashed in

Memories of various kids I knew:
Rhoda, who died of leukemia in the fifth grade
Bulldog, who beat my sister up
That family called the Bug-Eyed Smiths 
each eye surrounded 
with bulging grape-blue skin 

Other family names:
Minkler, Maylon, Perham, Blood 
red-eyed fathers with angry faces 
who drove truck

Searching the dump one spring 
some kid ate pills and got sick
Captions in the 5th grade songbook read
"EaT ME" and "SUCK MY DiCK" 

A grimy three pound chunk of sugar
came to school for a treat
It lasted a week

And where they lived: 
peeling tarpaper and water-green wood
a dead pony 
that gassed the neighborhood 
till the health man had it dragged off
Its bones turned up later 
behind Deano's  
with cans that once held acetone
and house paint laced with lead 
feeding sumac that grew like mongrel palm
along the valley of the almost dead


His name had the word “scar” in it
word cut from dog-teeth and
edged in spit: 
Wyoming, sheep-herding
the Round Robin bar,
HOT and COLD spelled under his nipples
OIL HERE with an instructional arrow
pointing to his navel.
A woman wound up one leg,
crudely jabbed into the skin:
Jessie, drawn with loving 
attention in India ink
smuggled past the turnkey.

He was the inmate
I, a boy working for pay. 
In the woodshop,
we hunched behind our pushbrooms
to loaf the afternoon,
watching the shadows 
lengthening from the lathes
feeling the stories
lengthening in the shadows.

Jeffrey Clapp’s poems and stories have appeared in North American Review, Blue Unicorn, Dalhousie Review, Arkansas Review, Sycamore Review and many others. He is a past recipient of the Daniel Morin Poetry Prize at UNH and the Indiana Fiction Prize from Purdue. His work has been anthologized in Best of Blueline and Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence in America. He lives in South Portland, ME.