by Ryan Vine
Happy Birthday, Ward
There’s a Ward and he’s sitting
in the park on a bench
watching birds flit from tree
to tree, wishing he could pick
one from flight, split its wings
between his teeth.
How did Ward happen?
Oh, Ward’s mom
was always around.
His father wasn’t far, either,
just at the bar, wondering how many
he’d had, how much more
he could. It wasn’t that bad,
really: Ward should wait for him;
it wasn’t like he wasn’t coming back.
He would, eventually. Then, he’d
do something this poem isn’t about.
What it’s about is this: Ward,
it’s nobody’s fault but yours.
This job is impossible
to get fired from. Boss says,
Try me. I don’t. I like it here
in the belly of the building;
I know which pipe to bang
on the boiler to make your
radiator rattle. My desktop
Mr. Coffee’s hissing
and warm, and for hours
we can sit down here, quiet
as coal. Sure, the barred window
sometimes throws its shadows,
but then I leave to scatter
and push handfuls of red
synthetic sawdust for hallways
and hallways. My broom
is wide and always dry,
and when I slide it around
corners—quietly, so quietly—
I can make the children scream.
Bad Idea Ward
Ward’s sold there’s treasure
buried beneath his house; for hours
he scours the hardwood floor,
marking its dumb weight
as he passes. Oh, honey. Please,
his shell-shocked wife whines. We’ve
got the place just how we want it.
But always Ward’s the old fool, holed
up in his own head again. This rage:
rage: how can he contain it? Keep
occupied. Keep occupied. He drives
his fists through the kitchen floor, pries
boards up when his wife’s away. He
strips to scratch the cold concrete
with his callused skin. So when
she’s back from the store,
with their pop and chips, he’s hunched,
naked and chest-deep in a hole
in their house. He’s holding something.
She says, What is that?
An unexploded ordnance, rusty brown.
Ward’s so proud of what he’s found.
He can’t help himself. He lifts it
to his face and shakes it.