Santee Frazier

10th Street Anthem

The city ends here. Dim-lit shacks
                                                             on the grid, in the feinting
light of evening a mother and son stand out on the sidewalk,
where the inklings
                                 of daylight are just enough that with touch
and sight she can slowly pluck each louse
                                                                           from her son’s head.
The mother’s face,
                                  wrinkled, an unfolded pucker and smile,
her stringy blonde hair dangling around her shoulders—
the son,
               chin to chest shirtless, staring at the sidewalk.
We the onlookers on the corner
                                                          do not know shame,
chin to chest, Midas in the night,
in the night, shirtless in the night that comes
down humid, streetlight that comes down platinum,
in the streetlight, a pack of boys sprinting in the streetlight.
The city ends with bullet-hole, ends with light-bills,
                                                                                               with welfare
and food stamps—we pluck and sprint, gulp down malt
and take it to the head—
                                            we huff the daylights out of our head.
A pack of boys sprinting in the streetlight,
                                                                             barefoot and platinum
in the streetlight—a primered Skylark comes thumping
up the street, on hubcaps, the driver’s hoodie up,
                                                                                            elbow out
the window, the headliner coming down over his head
like a bed-sheet.
                              Beyond the dim guts of houses, beyond platinum,
beyond nothing ancient,
                                             beyond the spine of civics, beyond the reach
of illuminated lots, beyond the reaching circuits—
                                                                                            it ends
with the spotty mutt, ends with some boney kid
                                                                                       stashing his butterfly
blade in his tube-sock, ends with a flock of winos huffing
Midas on a ramshackle porch acting out their 20’s and 30’s
before the gash of scars, skill of fist,
the rusted shell of the tire factory was rusted—the last time
the potholed, divoted,
                                         asphalt smelled of hot rocks and tar.
A MacDonald’s cheeseburger wrapper
                                                                      in the gutter.
Night Train bottle in the gutter. Diaper in the gutter.
Flattened mutt in the gutter. Barefoot
                                                                     and platinum,
a pack of boys, sprinting
                                              off into the dumpster stank alley.




“10th Street Anthem” appears in Dark Thirty (University of Arizona Press, 2009).