By Jennifer Leonard*

When, years later, I learn Kevin Miller,
the boy who grew up next door, is in jail
for drugs and a stolen car and a gun,
I think of eighth grade:
Kevin with his buck teeth and buzz cut
always getting into fights, Kevin suspended
once for carving the F-word into a church pew
during Wednesday Mass, then again
for slinging walnuts against the windshield
of Mrs. Sabatino’s car.
And that one time, on the field at the end
of the street, where the boys gathered after school
to pick teams, Mark McGarity said,
We don’t want the retard,
meaning my brother—
and Kevin said, What the fuck, man,
and Mark said, Well then prove he can catch a ball,
and when Kevin shrugged and said Fine,
and told my brother to go out for a pass,
and my brother did, but did not catch the ball—
when it bounced twice off the ground,
and my brother looked down at his sneakers,
and Mark told Kevin, Yeah dude, there’s no way,
and all the other boys stood
in a sort of ring, and waited for someone
to hurt someone else—
but instead, Kevin thumped my brother
on the back and said, Let’s go. And my brother—
who may not ever be able to memorize equations
or read, but knows when a man risks himself
for another—
he followed Kevin home to our back yard,
where Kevin threw my brother the football,
and though the ball passed again and again
through my brother’s hands,
Kevin kept throwing, telling my brother
where to move and when, and I can picture, now,
my brother’s face so serious and filled
with concentration—
and Kevin, throwing until their shadows
fell long over the yard.

*Originally published as Jennifer Luebbers

Jennifer Leonard has held scholarships and fellowships at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, New York State Summer Writers Institute, and Indiana University, where she received her MFA in poetry and served as Editor-in-Chief of Indiana Review. Most recently, she served as the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin lnstitute for Creative Writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s