For Ken

You were a head taller than the rest of us,
with a lean body clad in white T-shirt,
black jeans, rumble belt, and leather jacket
from a street our parents wouldn’t go to.
You were a man among our nervous tribe
of scrawny kids because you didn’t care
about stupid things like graduation.
We scattered when you walked into the gym,
trembled when your huge hands grabbed one of us
and shook us down for money. Astounded
us when you unshouldered your black boom box
and talked tenderly of Nancy Wilson.
You made recess an ordeal. You made class
a confusing thrill with your defiance.
Then you were gone. Not because you cut class—
you’d knocked the boom box into the bathtub,
it was still plugged in but the music stopped.

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