The Troubled Boy

leans against the brick wall
of Osco drug store smoking
cigarettes. A t-shirt hangs
from his shoulders, torn
hem, wasted blue jeans sit
low on his hips.

The troubled boy's presence
bothers all the young mothers.
They park their mini vans,
eyeing him. Set the alarm
with an obvious sound.
Nothing new transpires

that the troubled boy
hasn't already seen or heard.
Sunlight recedes behind
the roof peaks of neighboring
houses. Filling his lungs

with smoke, the only thing
worth doing. Small children
hold their mothers hand
across the parking lot,
exuberant boys and girls
dart like springs unset, fulfilling
the role of son, daughter.

The troubled boy watches
the smiles on their faces,
purity he can't imagine knowing.
How can so much love
fit into such a small body,
he wonders as the breath
of dusk blows haste
across his shoulders.

After everyone leaves
and the lot is empty,
and the shadows grow
long, he gathers his solitude
like a coat
knowing tomorrow he'll return
to silently announce himself,
uproot the heart of a passing
stranger, perhaps.

Explore the faces of five year olds,
observe their uncanny ability
to set themselves free.
Absorb their radiance.
Destiny walks alongside the troubled
boy, he's sure of it.
Stars point their gun-light at his chest.
Composed, he takes off his shirt.

Walks half naked the quarter mile
home where no father lives
where no mother bakes cookies,
works double shifts at the diner
instead. The troubled boy offers
his back to the stars, a too-thin
target they always miss.

by Lisa Zaran

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