Bio Note: I’ve had a couple of day jobs over the years, including teaching in a military school (not my thing) and in colleges (better—still not my thing). For many years now I’ve worked as a technical writer, producing online help and manuals for banking software. Just for kicks, I’ve also written classical music reviews for Audiophile Audition and worked as an editor for a couple of poetry journals. Briefly, I had my own little poetry press. I’ve even tried my hand at young-adult fiction, with variable results. But then I’ve had more success getting poetry in print, though as everybody knows, a poet needs a day job to keep afloat. My last collection was Magnetic North from Finishing Line Press.
The Boy in the Box is a zombie. Dead for sixty years and more, he has lived in my head that long. He starred in no horror films, no TV series—just a flyer on a corkboard at the central post office. Three photos, one straight on, two from left and right, the police department wanting to identify him, not to haunt the dreams of, and generally scare the shit out of, an eight-year-old who saw only the crazy thatch of the botched haircut (unexplained), the crusty splotches on the forehead from “blunt force trauma,” the eyes blank as twin zeros. The Box had once contained a bassinet that came from J. C. Penney. The mind wanders, to the old saw of the baby and the bathwater. And then the Boy: for all that he’d been starved and battered, his nails were freshly trimmed, arms folded in ironic loving obsequy, before he was dumped in the hinterlands of one of the city’s better neighborhoods. There is no Why, just as there is no Who. He’s buried under a stone that identifies him only as America’s Unknown Child. I’m certain that he’s mine, my adoptive son. I’ve had no other in all these many years.
Night travelers like us, they’ve driven to the Circle K across the alley only to find it closed. I imagine the girl has turned to her boyfriend and said I got to go, no matter what! then in presumed modesty backed up to the night side of a power pole. The boy waits, smoking, in the car. My wife and I watch from the parking lot across the way, where we’ve come to dump our travel trash before we part this shut-down Florida town. And I say Go for it, won over by the ingenuousness and this girlish beauty I imagine, though her face is no more than a cratered life mask under the security lights. But I do admire the way her white top maps the sinuous topography upstairs. Pitches tent between her knees. Clothes the mystery of the shadowed mons below, the hinted-at thighs a Doric loveliness, even in this frank judgmental light.
It is a photographic ghost. It is the demimonde: the shady, trick- turning stepsister of the day-lit hemisphere. It is the demiurge: the cosmic used car salesman at the heart of all that is quotidian. It is the iceberg’s sunken hull that unrigs each day’s most seaworthy constructs. It is the hair shirt, the millstone, the one catholic and apostolic jail.
©2020 Lee Passarella
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