It was harder to say no back when Paul
threatened to sue me after I told him
I couldn’t play GI Joe anymore beneath
the weevil-chewed spruce on the island
of my cul-de-sac where he always came
to visit his aunt. Truth is I liked him just fine.
He told stories as tall as that spruce, sometimes
taller. Then he tracked dog shit all through
my house and on the tie-dye beanbag chair
in my basement and that meant we were
finished. That was how I saw it then.
But I couldn’t see why Paul wore that same ripoff
Mighty Ducks jersey even in the offseason,
lived for entire weeks with his uncle and aunt
when his adopted mother was seven blocks northwest,
his parents by blood in a place
I could not yet understand. It wasn’t until
high school that I saw the things they wrote
about him in the gazette — thirty round
white pills of OxyContin, storm water
and spring thaw breaking around his body, spread
like discarded clothing in the concrete basin
at the bottom of the ravine behind my cul-de-sac.