Dean Smith



Gunfire at midnight
outside my window
not the usual gang volleys
but two shots, definitive, full stops.

I see a boy face down in the street
wearing a Redskins jersey—
a defensive back beaten deep
for a touchdown.

No sirens swirling lights
or squad cars, just a flashlight
and the hum of an ambulance
idling for pick-up and delivery.

“"Don't believe what they say,
you were a good son to me,"”
his mother wrote on a flyer
tacked to a maple tree.

I recognized the snapshot
from his twentieth birthday.
Our brief exchange occurred
on my way home from Lautrec

or the Mambo Room and consisted
of a nod and a "no thanks,"
when he offered me "rock."
At the base of the maple,

his memorial grows: photos
curled under rose petals, bottles
of Remy-Martin drained
in his honor, a soldier's goodbye.


Dean Smith is the author of American Boy, which won the 2000 Washington Writer's Prize and the Maryland Prize for Literature in 2001. His poems have appeared in Poetry East, Open City, The Virginia Literary Review, Gulf Stream, and the anthology D.C. Poets Against the War.


Published in Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 2006.