The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Gary Fincke

Saturday Night, East Liberty


Once, at a Pittsburgh theater, a movie
About a boy, a year older than me,
Who renounced God, while tossing a bottle
Onto a highway where it shattered,
I understood, like his firm, former faith.

By the time that boy lit a cigarette
And snarled its smoke, my father was
Hissing in my sister’s ear, my mother
Was drumming fingers on her armrests.

Even before my sister, out loud, said
“We’re leaving,” my father was on his feet,
The boy on the screen cursing the clear,
Star-filled evening sky as he walked
The center line of the two-lane road.

My mother, like me, was still watching
As if she needed to learn a version
Of the future she’d already imagined,
Whispering “Bill, Bill” like a small, hoarse bird.

That boy looked like he was daring traffic.
Music meant to be ominous rumbled
As if it was barreling toward him.
My mother, at last, tugged my arm.

Because I was thirteen, I followed her
To the side exit near the screen,
The winter air at my back as I stared
At the enormous shadow of the boy
That must have been cast by headlights.

On the sidewalk, an argument flurried.
Surrounding the stoplight, the wind-swept snow
Looked weightless. The intersection empty,
My father and sister crossed in tandem.

My mother, waiting for me, let them
Stride so far ahead they became strangers.




GARY FINCKE's latest collection After the Three-Moon Era won the 2015 Jacar Press Poetry Prize and was published in February. His next book is Bringing Back the Bones: New and Selected Poems, which will be published in April by Stephen F. Austin University. He is the Charles Degenstein Professor of Creative Writing at Susquehanna University.



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