Shirts or Skins, a 2014 poetry chapbook by Jim Redmond

Natural Law

Now I’m taking a wrong turn.
Now I’m taking another.
It’s too dark to see any of this.

Now I’m in the bad part of town.
I feel like doing bad things.

I don’t know what I’m doing
but I’m doing it.
I don’t know where I am.

A group of young boys
comes closer. They can’t
be older than seven.

They are trying to whistle
but they don’t know how yet.

One of them is wearing
a rabbit’s foot sucked
clean to the bone.

A long scar like a feather
runs the length of his arm.

Another is tracing his smooth
chin with the tip of a cigarette.

I say, I’m not supposed
to be here. Please tell me
where I’m supposed be.

One of the boys has a face
just like Jim’s when he was
younger. How’s Jim, I try

to ask him, have you talked
to Jim lately. I need to know.
Please. It’s been so long.

The boy looks the other way
and cringes a bit like it pains him.
I can’t see his face now.

I think of clam tongues
at the bottom of soup cans
cut into with knives.

I can’t see anyone’s face.
I can only feel the bald
outline of them watching.

I’m still wearing my suit
and my tie. It feels so tight.

Somebody says, let me show you
something. They hold me upright
and they start to show me.

There are many broken
and abandoned things.

It’s a strange and terrible place.
No. It’s my old neighborhood.

They take me into my old house.
But it’s not my house anymore.

Someone has pissed in
all the corners. The smell
is strong and true and sad.

My bed is still there.
I try to lie down but I don’t fit.

The boys want a story.
They hold out a book
but all the pages are missing.


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