Third Day, Friday, May 1, 1992 by Matt Miller

Dillon knew Shorty from juvie or wrestling
but I didn’t know him at all not even from the halls
in between the bells but when Shorty grabbed
Lori by her long red hair and started dragging
her around the parking lot his presence was
suddenly a fact and so too that he was black
and pissed over Rodney over cops over all
these white kids who thought they owned
this McDonalds’ parking lot where his boys
showed up with bats and clubs and stroked
real or feigned handguns in their hoodies and
circled around us that night as we sipped beers
and ate fries and why they rolled up in our spot
was all over the news as LA stayed detonated
for a third day but the point of maybe no return
was when Shorty snatched Lori who screamed
and kicked and his boys held up their sticks
if any of us started to move and we were scared
even the numbest of us knew this is how
it starts we’d seen enough of acting tough before
and what happens when there’s no way out
except for through then pug muscled Dillon
jumped out Dillon whose folks were gone
who smashed a bottle over my neighbor’s head
who missed part of the football season rocking
kiddy prison jumped out and said Shorty Shorty
you don’t want to do this man this is bad
I’m your friend you know me I’m your friend
this ain’t the fucking way to end this man let
her go and we’ll all take off and the parking lot
is yours and Shorty could have shivered Dillon
scalped Lori and could have taken all that mad
he was feeling all that hate needing healing and
burned the whole stage down but he didn’t no
he let her go instead and Dillon hugged him
and helped Lori up and we white kids rolled out
rolled home where the fire for us was just on TV
Matt W. Miller is the author of the collections The Wounded for the Water (Salomon Poetry), Club Icarus, selected by Major Jackson as the winner of the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize and Cameo Diner: Poems. He has published poems and essays in The Adroit Journal, Harvard Review, Narrative Magazine, Notre Dame Review, Southwest Review, 32 Poems, Memorious, and crazyhorse, among other journals. He was winner of the River Styx Microbrew/Microfiction Prize and Iron Horse Review’s Trifecta Poetry Prize. He is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University and a Walter E. Dakin Fellow in Poetry at the Sewanee Writers Conference. He teaches English at Phillips Exeter Academy and lives with his family in coastal New Hampshire.