Combustions : Poems by Anthony Seidman

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Little Boy Lost In his pajamas, and barefoot, he walked across the parking lot of steaming asphalt. He walked, or ran, down the sidewalk, barefoot, to the corner store from which I exit. I drop my plastic bag of beer and instant noodle soup. The boy is treading, left foot up, left foot down, right foot up…he is howling, red-faced, snot glistening over his lips. I pick him up and bring him back inside; we pass under the icy blast of the air-conditioner vent, and into the vomity smell of cleaning agents, and dusty canned food. The boy is crying so hard that he is choking on his own phlegm, and I pat, pat, pat his back. Waving his hand quickly, the clerk motions to me, Bring him here! and he swipes aside boxes of cigars and gum from the counter. I set the boy down and hold up his feet to see the damage; his soles are now two blisters, in parts parchment yellow, in other parts translucent sheaves of epidermis. One blister ruptures, mustard colored plasma oozes thick as penicillin. I look up at the clerk who shouts out in Arabic to his wife; from the stock room, she comes out, her heels clacking quickly, and she hands him the cell phone. The boy’s teeth are chattering, and he shivers; I pick him up, and he wraps around me, tight as a boa-constrictor. As I rock him, the wife banters disbelief in Arabic with her husband, and approaches us, trying to hand the boy a Hershey bar, which he refuses to grab. We spend ten minutes like this until we hear the sirens, squeal of brakes, and the chugging of a diesel engine idling. Two firemen and a paramedic step inside…the young paramedic, who looks a like blond Malibu surfer, carries the boy to the ambulance. The door open, I stand at the store’s entrance and gaze at the boy who is still crying and is now on a guerney inside the van. With blue latex gloves, the medic examines the boy’s feet, while a fireman tries to ask me questions, though my ears are throbbing and I can’t listen, can’t hear a thing, until I hear the voice of his mother, and I step out onto the sidewalk, and see her walking in her slippers and in a violet nightgown, and she’s gesticulating, screeching I told him to go nowhere and wait outside! I told him to sit outside and stay! Something fragile and small within me shatters, and then I feel a scald throughout my limbs; I approach her, shouting, but a fireman is holding me back, and insists in a decisive and well-annunciated tone: Sir, are you the father? Are you the boy’s father; sir, are you the father?

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  • Paperback | 73 pages
  • March Street Pr
  • English
  • 1596610999
  • 9781596610996

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