read by Ted Kooser. audio from Blue Flower Arts.
We were ten or eleven, my friend and I,
when we found them up under a bridge,
on top of a beam where pigeons were resting.
Someone had carefully hidden them there.
On each was a black-and-white photo,
no two cards alike. We grew quiet and older,
young men on our haunches, staring at
what we feared might be the future.
The pigeons flapped back to their roosts,
rustling and cooing. The river gurgled
as it slipped from the bridge’s cool shadow.
There were women with big muzzled dogs,
women with bottles and broom handles.
Stallions stood over the bodies of others.
The women smiled and licked their lips
with tongues like thorns. We grew old.
We were two old men with stiff legs
and sad hearts. We had wanted to laugh
but we couldn’t. We had thought we were boys,
come there to throw stones at the pigeons,
but we were already dying inside.
from Weather Central (1994)