Benjamin S. Grossberg

Whose Eyes Dart Contagious Fire

I’d like to convince you that it was
beautiful: he and I in a state park,
hidden by trees just off the cleared
space of a high-power line, tottering
against each other and still
mostly dressed. Can you believe
it was beautiful? Or innocent—
because it was that, too. Innocent:
the kind of warm November that
ignites spontaneous running. I ran
and he tried to catch up, soon
leaping onto, tackling me, both of us
falling, out of breath and laughing.
If we were sixteen, if there was
a soundtrack, a pulling back and
panning of trees, if music “soared,”
wouldn’t you describe the moment
as innocent? If one of us were
a high-school quarterback, the other,
shy, living out the template
of a crush; if she were shivering in
a long cotton shirt, sleeves pulled
over her hands, and he bundled her
in the leather of his coat, wouldn’t it
be innocent, be beautiful? But two
middle-aged men by a power line,
on a second date, with our clothes
bunched around our midriffs, ankles—
what if I said it was twilight
and we tore apart from each other
to the shock of headlights, a siren,
that a cop came out of the vehicle,
angry, and a second angry cop—
one from each door—started
toward us: a public park. That’s
what they were saying, hitting
the word like a night stick
on an open palm, a public park.
Imagine us now, our hoods pulled
over our heads, cuffed, lowered
into the backseat. What if the shy
girl undoes her hair, takes off her
glasses, and even though she’s cold
twirls away from the quarterback
like a ballerina, then he laughs, does
a mock twirl of his own, and holds
his hand out to her, as if they were
really going to start something
like ballet, only then they kiss
and the camera does its slow,
insinuating fade? In the backseat
of the cop car, he and I look down
to our knees, away from each other;
we are locked behind plexiglass,
hearing a voice swagger into the CB,
Coming in with a couple of fags, yeah,
at Johnson State, we caught them
pegging each other in the woods.

Except it didn’t happen that way.
It was sundown, and we cleaned
each other with a crumple of leaves.
And walking back along the path,
we passed teenagers from the local
college—a couple, I think—probably
out there to get stoned or watch
the sunset. Likely both. And that,
too, is beautiful, is innocent, isn’t it?
They looked up at us as we passed,
two middle-aged guys knocking
shoulders, holding hands, but they
didn’t do a double-take. The guy
nodded his head a little, the girl smiled.