High above the hustle
of the Brownville Projects,
bullies find Mike’s solace:
a rooftop walk-in filled with
pigeons named for boxing greats.
In his hands, Mike cradles
his prize racer, Mongoose,
cooing as the bird pecks
seed from his lips.
Lemme hold it,
the big guy says, and wrenches
Mongoose from Mike’s chubby
fists. The sidekick chuckles
and the bullies pass the bird back
and forth, take turns pushing
Mike away, laugh as he pleads
with them to thtop it.
Mike almost holds in his squeal
as they pop the head off Mongoose,
twisting its cap as easy
as opening a soda bottle.
The big bully shoves
Mike back in the coop,
then throws the limp bird at his soft
chest and walks away smiling.
When they’re gone, Mike raises
his arms; palms open like he’s addressing
his congregation, and commands
the other birds out of the coop.
Feathers flutter in the air like dirty
snow, and Mike slumps
against the back wall, crying. He wipes
his nose on his sleeve and vows
to take the head off every fool
that tests him.
He’ll start with the tips of their ears.
Aaron Counts has written and read with professors, prisoners, high school dropouts and national book award winners. He is a teaching artist with Seattle’s Writers-in-the-Schools program, and his non-fiction book, Reclaiming Black Manhood, has been taught in area jails, prisons and juvenile detention facilities. He holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia.