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My Sentimental Education

Aaron Anstett

Who poked Bazooka Joe’s lost eye, what jape
was his gang engaged in, what joke
gone wrong, involving explosives

beer bottles were stolen
from their sleeping fathers for?
Maybe Bazooka caught a rusty nail

looking under the rug to see the floor show.
Maybe he stared and stared
through the wrong keyhole.

We’ll never know. They never say
what happened to Joe. The eye patch is given.
All else is joking. Such lives,

they have to laugh though, and hard,
knocked twenty degrees backwards
a foot off the ground

every punch line, stunned into shooting
lines out their heads, black lines that float
like flattened haloes. It’s a means of survival

for Bazooka and his gang, being poor, but proud,
with one set of clothes. Bazooka’s always grinning
in his blue ball cap. Bazooka’s always dumbfounding

the adults into stupor, and so never has to
go to sleep, mismatched pajamas and dirty sheets,
yanking the knotted shoelace down,

then walk across his small room so
tiptoed his ankles hurt, lying there in bed just
a skinny kid with one eye gone.

Aaron Anstett

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