of oak across the street, early August
hot and slow. Chad rubs liniment in where his forearm
brushed against the restaurant’s toaster,
his latest kitchen scar. Nothing new for either of us,
tips of my fingers long gone smooth,
nerve-ends melted from grabbing trays
out of the oven, bread off the grill.
We’re at Chad’s place after shift, sitting
in plastic lawn chairs. He’s spitting dip
into a Styrofoam cup, his bare feet up
against the rail. We’re drinking Michelob.
He mutters his girlfriend keeps giving him hell
about new paint for the siding and window frames,
other chores left unfinished. We talk shop,
about the old cook freaking out high again
and how the night manager won’t
have Chad over to her house where she’s got not one
but two confectioner’s ovens as well as
all the pots he needs for his dream diner.
He tells me again about the mountains in India
and can’t believe I ran the table on him
at the pool hall earlier. Though it has only been
a couple of months it is as if we’ve known each other
always, the brother we each never had.
The talk turns to favorite books and he wonders
why there aren’t more things written
about guys drinking after work, sun going down,
watching flies gather in the shade of a wooden swing,
how they plague the rough bone he gave his dog
the day before, how they pester the dog’s seeping eyes,
and then a dozen black birds settle
on the oak’s lower branches away from the heat.
He wipes condensation off the bottle in his hand
and says I should write about these droplets
spilling onto the plain pine boards, slowly soaking in,
spots turning to vapor until they’re no longer visible.
That right there, he shouts, that’s a poem!
then drains his beer in one long chug.