Ed Pavlic

Lessons Unlearned

Remember what you want to
Bobby, no one taught
crawfish to open pinchers
into open air when dropped
from the railing. No one taught
the howl in my belly
when you & Todd marched
them across noonday
traffic on the Division Street
bridge. No one taught real secrets
like how payback runs crazy,
yellow jackets tangled in wiry hair.
No one taught us not to talk
about why Corey stood in shadows
& made that low nasty noise.
That we could draw pictures
of anything we weren’t allowed
to see. No one taught me to hold on
to night-blue breaths
of summer when ceilings fell away.
Or how to fly, Bobby,
thru new asphalt and street-steam
after the rain.
How long the sun’s heat lasts
in rings of inner tubes
laid out in the grass.
Nothing learned fired my brain
at what George Habbib caught
by the toe & far as I figured,
no one taught bats
to chase tennis balls thru
a money-maze of willow trees.
Who told whip-lean bodies
they could sweat
& tingle in terror soft as leather
wings that swooped arms & legs
as we leapt for the catch? & no one,
one by one, listed the million things
a day I’d never do
by myself. Who could have
taught that crowd of boys
to chant for your blood, Bobby?
Or me to pin your arms
under knees & bury my face
where it hurt? Salt to streak
a nine year old’s sun-brown neck?
Nobody taught me to whisper
to you about your mom’s mud knee
eyes, green-streaked like crime stains
on red & white checked pants.
& no one, not your big, chrome, nude
brothers, Bobby, taught you to curse
thru chipped teeth and laugh
til you couldn’t breathe. How to follow
a baseball’s shadow thru blue
specked oak limbs in the back lot.
Or how to throw it,
Bobby, just far enough out
beyond my reach to make me dive.

Ed Pavlic
“Lessons Unlearned” is from Labors Lost Left Unfinished (Sheep Meadow Press, 2006).