Suzi Q. Smith “Rust”

“You can’t beat nobody on that stupid girl bike!”
His hands, big as pies pressed into me,
ashy knuckles curled around my shoulders and shoved,
my brand new pink-and-purple bicycle with the streamers and the basket
crashed to the sidewalk with me underneath, landing in a mean thud,
a brand new scraped shin and ankle
dazzled in the hot sun and winked at me,
“it’s okay, baby,” the blood cooed, “go ahead.”

I lifted the bike my momma bought me,
kicked its stand with a cuss, cuz nobody touches my bike
but me, it was my first brand new thing.
I snatched the basket from its handlebars and locked eyes on Myron,
the boy who stood a head taller and always hung around but
we all knew he was kind of slow and did not always have
clean clothes to wear.

“Don’t nobody like you anyway, Myron!”
my throat curling into a fist,
my legs pumping hard against the high noon pavement,
chasing him into the neighbor’s yard.
I swung the basket in a furious tornado,
the roar and thrum of my neighborhood and
my block and my brother boiled around us
but in the center, in the eye, we were silent.
We could not lock eyes then,
the mirrors too unforgiving.
If he had known I was a shaken bottle
he may have been cautious to twist my cap.

I did not notice the thorns in my knuckles,
only that he had been swallowed, whole
into the wall of rosebushes,
his long arms vining over his head in scratches.
I did not stop swinging until my brother
looped his arms around mine and carried me,
raging as summertime, and my bicycle,
with its streamers now hushed,
to the creaking front porch of our house,
who always kept the secrets of noonday warriors.

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