The Battle

That night,
I picked the splinters from my foot,
Saved them in a small metal box,
And called it shrapnel, labeled carefully
With a marker and long strand of tape.

Long fluorescent bulbs pulled
From the dented blue dumpster
Were too tempting to resist.
Bulbs extended in en garde position,
We battled, two young Jedi knights, as the late afternoon sun
Sent steam wafting up from hot asphalt.
Inky smoke enough to solidify our mirage.
The drab concrete underfoot clung to us
With tanned-out skins of Hubba-Bubba
And Juicy Fruit beasts.

This battlestation gave way.
Off of the tarmac, we strode
Over cool grass, wet from the neighbor’s sprinkler,
Welcoming to our battle-hardened feet.
Humming sounds from our lips,
We played out the final scene.
Shadow duel flicked intimately back
And forth, into a frenzy.
The long glass tubes whistled through the air.
Neither of us gave much thought to what our parents had said.
You can’t tell a warrior to play safe.
A pretended explosion projected
From our mind’s eye,
Became harsh reality in an unexpected shower of glass.

Chris screamed.
Blood ran down his arms as he fled back to his house.
I tip-toed across the neighbor’s yard,
Avoiding most of the shards,
Avoiding my parent’s questions,
But the next day Chris couldn’t play.
His parents said I was a bad influence.

Months later, our family had to move.
Packing the big orange van, I found the box of shards.
The tape had faded and peeled away at the corner.
I let it fall,
But couldn’t help looking back
As we drove away.
Watching, as the green blades of our lawn faded to nothing and we retreated along the shining ribbon of sun-baked asphalt.