A gray hoodie will not protect my son
from rain, from the New England cold.

I see the partial eclipse of his face
as his head sinks into the half-dark

and shades his eyes. Even in our
quiet suburb with its unlocked doors,

I fear for his safety—the darkest child
on our street in the empire of blocks.

Sometimes I don’t know who he is anymore
traveling the back roads between boy and man.

He strides a deep stride, pounds a basketball
into wet cement. Will he take his shot

or is he waiting for the open-mouthed
orange rim to take a chance on him? I sing

his name to the night, ask for safe passage
from this borrowed body into the next

and wonder who could mistake him
for anything but good.

January Gill O'Neil

JANUARY GILL O'NEIL is the author of Misery Islands (2014) and Underlife (2009), both published by CavanKerry Press. She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University. Recently she was elected to the board of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). January’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Harvard Review, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Paterson Literary Review, and Rattle, among others. She lives with her two children in Beverly, Massachusetts.

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