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Uniform

“I can’t fashion myself into a different person who might be better suited to be his friend.”
    ~ Franz Kafka, The Judgment (1912)

Brown topsiders over argyles
Lightly-worn Levis fitting tight
Ray-Bans wrapped just above neatly-trimmed hairline
A gator emblazoned on the breast
Sports backpack slung blithely across one shoulder
In it a few notepads a trashy novel a medal a portrait
Of his sweet sixteen
The debutante daddy’s girl
Who rides off with him now in the sportscar
That came as a birthday present he fondly drives
In his mind
Thirty years later
Divorced if for no more reason than ennui
What’s left to do but work on his swing?

Scuffed boots over holey socks
Second-hand Wranglers
Leather belt with shiny knurled buckle off center in front
Wrinkled flannel tails dangling behind
Short-cropped hair and ruddy face
Bearing a wink for his sweet sixteen
A thick-wristed muzhichka with callused hands
Long accustomed already to steamy dishwater
Taking the bus with him now all the way out to nowhere
Thirty years and three kids later
The occasional hunting trips haven’t happened for awhile
At least he’s still got a job to do
What’s left besides Bible-fearing Sunday morning church
After the devil’s cheap Saturday night liquor?

Trainers with air-cushioned insoles
Sweats with drawstrings hanging cool and loose
Upper end of jockstrap slipping past dangling waistband
Beneath muscle shirt revealing satin skin
Tight sheened curls with a notch or two shaved clean
Whether as an inside message between bros
Or a general statement of fashion encouragement solidarity
He won’t tell even his sweet sixteen
A sassy pigtailed flygirl who stands hands on hips
Calling him away from the televised game thirty years later
What else is left but to endeavor
Nothing
No matter what it means these days between menial jobs
As though it ever mattered?

Catalog shoes and factory outlet shirt
Noname jeans starched spanking new with disclosed defects
Thick metal temples embracing thicker coke bottles
Hairstyle: negative
Holding by a handle dad’s 1940s faux-leather satchel
Of books and the five-and-a-quarter-inch Janus disks
For his sweet sixteen
The Apple ][e in Ms. Austen’s math classroom
Formatted with ProDOS modified so no one can read them
Without booting one to a greeting in greenscreen graphics
Bearing his handle and a request for a password which
Thirty years later he’s forgotten
What else is left but to stick them back in the closet
Where they remain spinning no more?

Thanks always returns

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