Poetry by Bruce Roberts

Night School

“I can’t stay
for class tonight;
my eleven year old son has
been arrested for murder,”
matter-of-factly she murmurs,
pleasant of voice, expression,
as my eyes widen, widen
headache and hot-air balloon size
at just-another-distant-horror-story
that this time
has intersected my life,
breaking and entering
those insulating layers
of facelessness, namelessness,
and distance
that shelter my sanity
from the macabre dance
of the daily news.

The story is absurdly quick
and random: Night concert–
a father waits for his family.
Kids hit his car.
He gets out; they stab once.
He dies; they run,
while inside his daughter
coaxes her trumpet
to a joyous concert crescendo–
oblivious to her father,
dead,
outside.

Bruce Roberts is a poet, retired teacher, and past Synchronized Chaos contributor. He may be reached at brobe60491@sbcglobal.net.

“Well actually he’s my stepson;
he doesn’t live with us,”
she adds: young, early 20’s,
nondescriptly pretty,
typical work-all-day,
classes-at-night girl.,
squeezing a meager future
from an overextended
underprepared
life.

A stepmother?? of a murderer??
an eleven year old murderer??

Beneath her plain, brown wrapper
is she a femme fatale,
the younger woman
of sizzling mouth, writhing curves,
who steams and flatters
the dad away
from an eleven year old
responsibility?

Or is it Dad?
Randy and irresponsible,
seducing her,
trading in the old wife,
as he probably will
again and again,
leaving his baby,
his son,
his little eleven year old boy–
a prisoner of his constant freedom–
to rove nightly
those dark, dark
streets.

And where was Mom?

Had a date perhaps?
Searching for self-esteem
with an endless stream
of “Uncles,”
reminding her boy
that even though he’s
the man in the family,
certainly he’s not the man in the family,
leaving him too,
at large in the neighborhood,
searching, searching–
careless knife in his small, white-knuckled hand–
for someone he can be.

Eleven year old boys should
spend their days
pounding a hardball into a baseball mitt,
inhaling new leather and neatsfoot oil;
falling in love with Miss Peabody,
the new fifth grade teacher;
running from every girl in school;
roaming hills and creeks
with friends and a soft-eared hound,
after tadpoles and snakes
and great climbing trees.

Yet with one thrust of his nuclear knife,
this boy exploded the hills, the dog,
and even Miss Peabody
right out of his life.
The resulting cloud took
mushroom shape,
billowing the price
of his parents’ divorce
higher and wider
over his shuddering
home town.

It’s late,
and yes,
I do know where my children are.

————————————————————————

Waiting–for the bus

home at Christmas break,

for my test scores
from third period English,

for world peace
to finally break out,

for my friend Randall
to stop capping on me,

for 6 o’clock when my cousin comes ‘round
to do our Christmas shopping at the mall,

for sleep, sleep, sleep tomorrow morning
when that alarm will not dare to ring,

for Saturday night
and my first date with Cherise from Spanish class,

for Christmas morning, when everyone will love my sweet self
over all the fine presents I have chosen just for them,

for that car full of hard-asses
to pass by, and get on with their scary lives,

for that loud noise to be something,
something besides a bullet
exploding into my back
as I slam the ground surprised
and—