Matthew Dickman

Lents District

Whenever I return a fight breaks out

in the park, someone buys a lottery ticket,

steals a bottle of vodka, lights

a cigarette underneath the overpass.

I-5 rips the neighborhood in half

the way the Willamette rips the city in half,

it sounds like the ocean

if I am sitting alone in the backyard

looking up at the lilac.

This is where white kids lived

and listened to Black Sabbath

while they beat the shit out of each other

for bragging rights,

running in packs, carrying baseball bats

that were cut from the same hateful trees

our parents had planted

before the Asian kids moved in

to run the mini-marts

and carry knives to school, before the Mexicans

moved in and mowed everyone’s front yard—

white kids wanting anything

anybody ever took from them in shaved heads

and combat boots.

On the weekend our furious mothers

applied their lipstick

that left red cuts on the ends of their Marlboro Reds

and our fathers quietly did whatever

fathers do

when trying to beat back the dogs of sorrow

from tearing them limb from limb.

Lents, I have been away so long

I imagine that you’re a musical

some rich kid from New York wrote about credit,

debt, and then threw in Kool-Aid

to make it funny for everybody.

I can see the dance line,

the high kicks of the skinheads, twirling

metal pipes, stomping in unison

while the committed rage of the Gypsy Jokers

square off with the committed rage

of the single mothers.

The orchestra pit is filled with Pitbulls

and a Doberman conducts them all

into a frenzy.

In the end someone gets evicted, someone

gets jumped into his new family

and they call themselves Los Brazos,

King Cobras, South-Side White Pride.

Dear Lents,

Dear 82nd avenue, dear 92nd and Foster,

I am your strange son,

you saved me when I needed saving

and I remember your arms wrapped around

my bassinet like patrol cars wrapped around

the school yard

the night Jason went crazy—

waving his father’s gun above his head,

bathed in red and blue flashing lights,

all American, broken in half and beautiful.