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A Chance To Say Good-Bye

After World War II
before television,
before women had tattoos
before men wore earrings,
I was a child in a world
with kids as odd as me.
I’m still here but tell me
where are they?

Remember Joey Joey
who yelped in class
every day before
doctors knew the nature
of his problem, his
barbaric yawps scaring girls
and driving boys down
on their desks laughing
until the day he disappeared.
I had no chance to say good-bye.

Can’t forget Petey, the toughest kid
in class, not quite right either.
He uppercut a girl in the third row
and disappeared the same day.
So did Bobby, who my mother saw
on his porch eating worms
one by one off a porcelain dish
as she was coming home from church
under a parasol, stylish in that era.
She asked if Bobby and I were friends
and I said, “Bobby Who? '
I had no chance to say good-bye.

But Jimmy was the nonpareil
when it came to kids not right.
I saw him after graduation leap-frog
parking meters like a kangaroo
down 63rd Street for half a block
woofing as he cleared them
until the cops took him home.
I had no chance to say good-bye.

They locked Jimmy in the attic
of his parents’ house for years
but at least he didn’t disappear.
Years later I saw him in a dark bar
with his twin brother drinking beer.
He sat quietly, not a single woof,
not a bar stool threatened by a leap.
There I had a chance to say good-bye.

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Rudyard Kipling


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