Waif
by Terry Cox-Joseph


The boy down the street showed up at our door,
battered snowboard in hand,
shivered, bare hands shoved under armpits,
begged to slide down our hill.

We invited him in, served him
steaming cocoa and marshmallows.

When the snow melted, my CD player went missing,
Mr. Moore’s garage window was broken,
the neighbor’s chicken was killed,
and Huffman’s terrier was shot with a BB gun.

The boy down the street showed up in our yard,
shovel in hand, sweating barefoot in the sun,
begged to plant my flowers for five dollars.

I invited him to kneel,
pat the soil beneath his hands.

One week later, our Indian maiden went missing,
the resin alligator disappeared,
and our imported river rocks were found in the boy’s yard,
spray painted red for a bloody Halloween display.

His mother dressed herself in curses and bruises,
lost her front teeth. We told her to keep him home,
but she had no idea what it meant.
I saw him sniffing something in aluminum foil.

The state took custody
long after we’d programmed them on speed dial.

The house belched debris. Neighbors gossiped.
Older brother agreed to supervised visit once a month,
promised the judge things would change.

The boy down the street circles on his bike like a river hawk.
I wonder if he’ll circle forever or alight someplace
where he’s not compelled to steal lawn ornaments
to fill the space inside.






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