Boys Playing Army
In a Deserted Nursery

          for Dave Smith

We taunted the ram in his paddock; he butted us back
to the bleached tinder of last year’s rye
where we flicked matches, whacked chains of charred

patches with team jackets while April egged
the smolders we couldn’t see, stretched flames
as mothers might a sheet across the abdicated

mattresses, from one pasture’s bevy of coddled
birches to another’s rhododendrons, yews
entwined in stunted hamlets. Empty expletives

of smoke were already being scoured from clouds
above the rows of failed rebellion, so
we ran to the future, regret an ember to resuscitate

along the turnpikes, embarked for the adversaries, pushing
computer mice, vacuums, and suffering daily
the subway gate’s punctual insult, cold

metal irreversible against our groins.

Ralph Sneeden’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Poetry ReviewHayden’s Ferry Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, POETRY, The New Republic, Slate, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, and many other magazines. The title poem of his first book, Evidence of the Journey (Harmon Blunt, 2007), received the Friends of Literature Prize from POETRY Magazine/Poetry Foundation. He directs the George Bennett Writer-in-Residence Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
*Photo courtesy of rofanator.
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