Rachel Becker ~ Four Poems

Juvenile Delinquency

I swear the boy at the bus stop
will nev­er get away with
what­ev­er he thinks I am,
fuck­ing cunt he says,
kick­ing a spray of rocks and gravel
that peck like roost­ers at my bare shins.

Because I’m fif­teen, I fork his lawn,
white plas­tic prongs up,
stick the thick­est maxi pads
I can find to tree trunks.
Cracking spoiled eggs
over his mother’s Oldsmobile,
I watch the whites drip,
then streak the windshield,
hands full of the sul­fu­ric stink
of albu­men. I wipe them dry
on my jeans, then run
like the dev­il I am.

When the police call in the morning,
I lie. The cop on the line is reedy, a whip,
a hol­low rasp of want­i­ng to punish.

My moth­er wrests a per­for­ma­tive apology
from my gul­let when I confess,
though I don’t say he called me
fuck­ing cunt
because this is my mother,

but I do apol­o­gize to the boy’s mother
a breezy sor­ry like blowing
out a scent­ed candle.

Well, he must have done some­thing,
she says, tug­ging at a dishtowel,
eyes trained on her boy in a tree,
his legs spread-eagle
between branch­es as he removes
reams of toi­let paper,
damp with dew. I want
to break the bough, to
watch his pasty hands
give up the ghost like
the met­al grab of
a claw machine crane
retract­ing. Instead,

all our eyes are on him
when he falls.


This is the negotiation

with the only terrorists
you’ll ever love.
The good lord gives you
one good sleep­er and one not,
not that it mat­ters. Mothers sleep
like birds stuck in attic eaves,
thrash­ing tail feath­ers against
against the glass panes.
Any inter­calary dream
is bright hot and fast,
over before it begins,
like reverse alchemy,
liq­uid met­al that turns
your limbs leaden
and numbs them to sleep.


Driver’s Ed

I’m going up, cup­ping a mocha
capped with whipped cream
and choco­late dust,
and these broad boys,
dou­ble file, wallets
dan­gling from chains,
are going down.

The old­er boy on the escalator
wants to lick my snatch,
flicks his tongue
through his fingers.
Smirks my way.

The night class­es are
at Sears, and so I can
get my license by June,
my moth­er pays.
I’ve watched her drive
untold hours, but never
paid atten­tion to her driving.

The boy’s gesture
and the word
are new to me, like
tinned fish in a gild­ed box
at the gourmet grocer,
which are still sardines,
slimy and iridescent,
in their tin turn-key houses.
New to me like dri­ving,
like buy­ing coffee
that’s noth­ing like coffee,
more like hot chocolate,
all syrup and no teeth.

I look down at my feet
on the mov­ing met­al stair,
can­vas shoes worn thin.
When I get home, I don’t look
up snatch because of course,
I know. I bare­ly know myself,
but the word, the gesture
I know, like the slick
of my own skin.


Cartwheel Galaxy

My son spun flip-turns ass to elbow,
elbow to webbed toe-tops in utero,
buoyed safe in a bal­loon of fluid.

Now, he loves water more than
breath, cir­cu­lates breath between breaths,
back­wards som­er­saults underwater.

Overwater, his cart­wheels strike sand,
skim tide pools. His tor­so, a centrifuge,
legs sluic­ing the air, kick­ing up sea spray,

crin­kled stars in their wake,
iri­des­cent spokes across a sun-pink sky.
He lands only to begin again, arms

indif­fer­ent to col­li­sion. In the sand
I print the word Dayenu with a stick,
his foot­prints, small-toed, long-tailed,

like comets streak­ing language,
smudge the let­ters as he plants
him­self to set up a final turn.

His astral fearlessness,
his buoy­ant return to standing,
would have been enough.

I hope for the low­est tide, a gen­tle groove
of sand bars for days, long for him
to find only soft land­ings, only orbit or lift.

I hope for a galaxy that remembers
grat­i­tude and stores it in space dust
for our lat­er use, our discovery.


Rachel Becker has pub­lished poems in Dinner Bell, What Rough Beast/Indolent Books, and Heavy Feather Review. She is a poet­ry can­di­date in the Lesley University MFA in Creative Writing pro­gram. She lives in Boston.