At the Tri­bunals

New England Review - - Explorations - Pa­trick Rosal

Once, in a brawl on Or­chard, I clocked a kid with a ridge­hand so hard I could feel

his top teeth give. His knees buck­led and my home­boy let loose a one-two

to fin­ish the job. I turned around to block a sucker punch that didn’t come.

We ducked un­der the cops’ bright red hatch­ets that swung around the cor­ner.

I never saw the first kid drop. He must have been still fall­ing when I dipped

from the scene and trot­ted to­ward De­lancey. He was fall­ing when I stopped

to check my leather for scuff marks. He was fall­ing when I slipped in­side

a dive to hide from a girl who got ghost for books. He was fall­ing when I kissed

the Santo Niño’s white feet and Me­lanie’s left col­lar­bone and the fore­head

of a rough­neck whose nose I was about to bust for noth­ing but squar­ing off

with me, his head snapped back to show his neck’s smooth pelt. Look away

long enough and a boy can fall for weeks —decades—even as you get down

on one knee to pray the rot­ting kid­neys in your mother’s gut

don’t turn too quick to stone.

I didn’t stick around to watch my own work. I didn’t wait for

a sin­gle body to hit the pave­ment. In those days, it was al­ways spring

and I was mostly made of knives. I rolled twenty-two deep, ev­ery

one of us lulled by a blade though few of us knew the steel note

that chimed a full mea­sure if you slid the edge along a round to make it

keen. I’ll tell those stiffs in frocks to go ahead and count me among

the ones who made noth­ing good with his bare hands. I’ll con­fess,

I loved the wreck­age: no mat­ter the coun­try, no mat­ter the ma­chine.

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