A month before school started, I ran through
our apartment house’s glass front door.
Finally home from the hospital, the cast replaced
with a dressing, I’d walk to and from school
with friends: safety in numbers, especially
on the perilous journey home: hitters swaggering
out of St. Rose of Lima’s parochial school lair,
demanding payment for safe passage.

One Friday afternoon, I had to walk alone;
on that long, lonely stretch of Prospect Parkway,
three thugs were slouching against a tree,
lurking for a little kid to rob and pummel.
When they approached, something scratched
under my coward skin, and instead of trembling
coins into their grimy palms, I blustered defiance,

and ripped off the bandage and shoved
my green, oozing wrist into the lead wolf’s face.
Instead of puking, he held my hand,
gently as the nurses had, and stared.

“Wow, man, did you try to off yourself?”
I shook my head. “‘That’d be a mortal sin,
but I can sorta dig it, if your old man ain’t
no better’n mine. So listen, man,
you ever need help, you know where we hang.”

Then, like wolves, they were gone.