Exile on Main Street

My head, too, was an unexploded shell

that summer of ‘67, Detroit
a hundred miles away,

so when one-armed Keebler and
his buddy,
Bogash, drive up

in a coral-colored GTO

two days into the riots and
I just swish a few,

pet the purring car. And then
it is
my father

who comes running—against

a backdrop of fresh paint,
—not burned building,

blackened skeleton of car.
They are going
down to the lake

to water-ski. They have

drinks in their hands.
I don’t know yet
what a bastard Bogash is,

or how Keebler stinks as a boss,
I just
know it’s my father’s

new job and I have to laugh

at their jokes, love
what they love,
admire the little doorknob

on the wheel so Keebler
can steer
with his stub, nurse his whiskey.

Already my father is lost:

his trunks ill-fit him, so later,
when he wipes out
and tumbles in the wake

like a flesh propellor
they will chide him raw
for days. But for now

he’s hopeful. This is money.

This is drink. This
is an expensive car.
For as long as it lasts

it’s a convertible and the wind
— the wind
is cool and childless.

So when Bogash grins, my

father grins, clambers in the back.
Fists a drink.
Nods or laughs

or chuckles— I can’t tell—
when Bogash
drops the N-word, threatens

local riots. It’s a lie, but

I don’t sense it. Blind pig.
Blind pigs.
I just see arm-in-arm marching

seven country miles
to this ring of houses
beside the lake,

something in me hazed,


so when Keebler
finally nudges

his car toward his boat

on the lake, I am already
loading a shotgun.

A pump-action, six rounds,
I one-arm
up the scaffold,

back of the house,

that lofts our television antenna
like a wire
angel into the sky.

Wind blows, rioting burns
and rolls
in bad reception

on the screen. No one

watches. We just leave it
as outboards echo across

the lake. From the roof
I can see
one skier

—Bogash? Keebler? tumbling

father?—cut the skin of water
it is briefly scarred,

briefly whipped, before it
calms again,
stills to their perfect summer coin.

Dennis Hinrichsen’s most recent works are Skin Music, co-winner of the 2014 Michael Waters Poetry Prize from Southern Indiana Review Press, and Electrocution, A Partial History, winner of the Rachel Wetzsteon Chapbook Prize from Map Literary: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Art. Both will appear in 2015. His previous books include Rip-tooth (2010 Tampa Poetry Prize) and Kurosawa’s Dog (2008 FIELD Poetry Prize). An earlier work, Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights, received the 1999 Akron Poetry Prize.