We march, not in single file,
free hands tenderly
picking one another’s pockets,
laughter wild & unrestrained as a murder
of crows from ragged treetops.
When parents bring their kids to witness
our circus of clumsy high-wire walkers,
rather than point & mock, they stand in front
or cover young eyes—darkness, too,
about us, a kind of freedom
from candor. Who could blame stern fathers
or mothers dressed to avoid the scandal of want?
They protect their offspring from seeing
lightness in our corrupt hearts
as we juggle two flaming batons,
a spectacle to celebrate
our joy at having survived our crimes,
our punishments, check-marked innocent
on status reports, although there may
be other offenses before the band
plays its farewell notes at avenue’s end.
Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021), I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, and The Prisoners. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble. His seventh collection, Tell Us How to Live, is forthcoming in 2024 from Fernwood Press.