The third time
I skinned both my knees
the summer I was eight, my mother
just shook her head. You’ll have scabs
on top of your scabs, she sighed,
as she painted them both with Mercurochrome,
that vile red liquid antiseptic that stung
worse than the scrapes themselves.
She eased my pain with a cherry Popsicle,
the sweet and cold in my mouth offsetting
the hot throbbing in my knees. Afterward,
I limped outside and showed Danny next door
my war-painted battle scars, then stuck out
my cherry-stained tongue, and told him
I drank some of the Mercurochrome.
Yuck! he cried.
It was a day full of red: Danny’s big sister Julie
sashayed by to show off her new red sundress
and flip hairdo. I told her she looked like Sandra Dee,
but Danny said she smelled like onions. Later,
a fire engine screamed through the neighborhood
when Mr. Berry knocked over his barbecue grill
and set his lawn on fire. Fresh cut grass and charcoal
don't smell so good when they’re put together.
I read in my science class that when the sun
goes down, the reds are the first colors to fade.
By dusk, my knees were no longer bright red,
and evening sounds took over for the colors –
the ice cream man on a late run, mosquitoes
teasing my ears, the Fisker brothers setting off
firecrackers in the woods, my parents watching
Jackie Gleason in the living room. I got ready for bed,
pulling my pajama pants over my tender knees,
which were already beginning to heal.
Butterfly in Penn Station
the human bustle in this
crowded terminal, we spot a butterfly
above us, darting frantically
from light to light, searching
something familiar – a flower,
sun to steer by.
called a Red Admiral,
majestic name for a fragile creature,
with red-orange stripes.
We hope it finds its way out
before it's crushed or scorched
by the indifference of this place.
moments later, a young girl,
more than seventeen, asks us
spare change for the train.
turn her down, then watch
moves through the concourse,
flitting from person to person.
How You Should Go
Leave with your temper
and spare your family the storm.
Refrain from the words you use
that leave no trace of bruising
but are still like a crack across the cheek.
Soon the current of your rage
will dissipate, absorbed into your body,
leaving only a residual, perhaps
a pressure in the chest.
Draft something in your head
that you might say if you ever
come back, but for now, just go.
Pull the string on the latch,
open the gate, walk through,
and let it close behind you
with a clattering racket
and a metallic striking shut.
Bruce W. Niedt is a beneficent
bureaucrat from southern NJ whose poetry has appeared in
numerous journals, most recently in Writer's Digest,
Tilt-a-Whirl, US 1 Worksheets, Curio Poetry, Shot Glass Journal,
and the anthology Best of the Barefoot Muse. His awards include
the ByLine Short Fiction and Poetry Prize, first prize for
poetry at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and a Pushcart
Prize nomination. His latest chapbook is Twenty four by fourteen (Maverick