Lee Rossi: "To the Teenager I Nearly Hit on Fairfax"

Lee Rossi’s latest book is Wheelchair Samurai. His poems, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Harvard Journal, Poetry Northwest, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and The Southern Poetry Review. He is a staff reviewer and interviewer for the online magazine Pedestal.

To the Teenager I Nearly Hit on Fairfax

You’ve done this dozens of times –
falling off the curb with your buddies
like a trio of empty trashcans
blown by winter
into the path of oncoming traffic –
trucks full of gardeners from East L.A.,
mothers with infants strapped into their SUV’s,
hotheads in BMW’s gunning for the freeway –
and had them stop short, like a heart
whose pacemaker battery just expired.
Oh, you felt good, didn’t you, Three Wise Men
in your sweats of Emerald, Ruby, & Gold
on your way to buy Cokes or play b-ball or just hang out,
the flag of Africa come to life
& out there in the street waving its come-hither
to herds of killer horse power.
Oh, I’ve been there too
daring the world to run me over,
cops with bullhorns, soldiers with bayonets fixed,
Presidents who thought my life was theirs to lose.
And guess what, they didn’t bother
to wipe the tear gas from my eyes
or lift me gently from in front of the troop train
or halt the truncheon in its downward arc.
So this time I’m not stopping either,
not even slowing down.
In fact, you’ll see me speed up
so that when I miss you, by inches
you’ll look up, maybe, & know there’s something out here
that wants to play your game,
and when it beats you,
you hurt all the way to the grave.

What are you looking for?