A poem for my niece on the third day of her life


I’m a bad uncle
your father used to pick me up
after school
& we’d run scams
immortal bandits
scraping away
at the great comedy


We smoked cigarettes
on the railroad tracks
with a group of soft-reckless
when we were boys
& walked in the woods
pretended to be older
than we really were


He had one of those dark green sedans
with a gold stripe ran along its side
transfixed in the passenger seat
witness to all that laid before
& is now known well in the heart as Cleveland
he showed me the ropes


the years would bring distance between us
never for quarrel
but simply as they will with young people finding places to sit
somehow we’d end up
in the same dank basements
wind-rotten front porches
malice-infested apartments
low-down holes
we learned that taste together I suppose


He ran among marauders of youth
though his heart stay gentle 
past that rough patch on his jaw 
& those boys would learn to like me 
on his word-
I’d imagine
& for that 
many doors were opened 
to an unlikely 


there is a lot to tell you
& I am expert of nothing 
forgive our shortcomings 
& allow us an effort still 
if I may give you
what is close to me now
for I am young & prone to err
though when you know what I mean 
that will have changed


when I grow callous
it’s hidden in me like secret poison
laying inert for what seems to you eons
listen dear
you shouldn’t quell what ails
what slowly eats at the gut will reside
& through the cardiovascular system it will seep   
in fact
I was
the most evil man in town
your father warned me against
my forthcoming 
but the pride of the wretched 
is hard to break 
the habits of hollow men
too sturdy 

It is in solitary that we learn ourselves most 
but we must remember 
to keep our eyes open
we must be patient with eachother

don’t know how 
we ended up
all the places we did

but I was always glad
to see him there

you’re a little girl
I don’t even know your name