Urban Mowgli

Chances are one has brushed past you,
pilfering snacks at an indie c-store
or bicycling past you at a red light.
They travel in packs, circling parking lots,
scavenging pizza parlor garbage cans,
not up, but still up, at seven a.m.,
frightening classy women, ignored by police.

Perhaps this one is even the mythical ex
of a girl you struggle to intrigue,
the paint-splattered, barefooted boy
with leafy vines in his wild ringlets,
the one whose sexual extravagance
she’s hinted at, maybe missed.
His most recent attempts at assimilation
included free concerts, cousin’s wedding,
a summer job at a bike-mart—
faded X pen-tattoos on his bony hands
his final act of public dialogue.
You face him now on the street,
avoid staring at his stretched ear lobes,
hideous toenails, tragically narrow waist.
Twitching, he stares at your shoulder,
asks for a cigarette or a dollar,
then makes it halfway down the block
unfazed, shirttail flapping, while you,
hands in khaki pockets, search out
something you can offer him, but
you quit smoking when one should,
your money is cached away.

The future will repeat this encounter
but next time you see this particular city dog,
this runner-up in high school art contests,
middle child of a broken home,
this malfeasance, this reprobate, this
confluence of vulgar pheromones,
yes, next time you see him will be a photo
you stumble upon while moving in with her,
bookmark in an old Kerouac or Vonnegut,
a placeholder in the history of a lady
that prefers things left unfinished.

Johnny Chinnici studied writing at Emerson College and the University of North Texas. His poetry and creative nonfiction have been featured in Gigantic Sequins and North Texas Review. He currently lives in downtown Houston.