Counting Sheep

The drag races still run down Harlem Avenue.
They have been battling long as I can recollect—
one graduating cap and gown after the next.
Pretty white teenagers gather in department store parking lots,
checking out each other and their beautiful birthday presents.
This is one of the only traditions that literally passes—
from one generation to the next, and often done in the cut off.
Screeches of rubber on road and roaring engines—screaming;
Declaring that the night is possessed by the uncompromised grip
of suburban youth; Slurping down milkshakes and
slipping hands beneath underwire, feeling the prize
that comes with the glory of owning an 87 Camaro.
Inside my father’s pathetic blue Volks,
I drove by those kids, watching them—
so serious in the inspection of what went on beneath hoods,
while the poofy haired girls sat on bumpers, laughing and dancing;
Loud speakers booming away the Z95 hits of the day.
And my father says to me, in the backseat,
“They’re all on drugs. Don’t their parents know what’s going on?”
And I thought that they must know,
because they had to have been here
not so long ago, themselves— pulling back bottles of Millers—
and fingering the dipstick, being sure their baby was well oiled.
And later on, in my bed, I fell asleep listening to the sounds—
imagining the magic that must come with being a teenager.
The snarl and squeal still lull me to sleep,
even if the sounds only pop off in dream.

written on 03/02/2011 by: Matt Kane