Law of the Jungle Gym

By Michael Mark

As advertised,

our once in a lifetime

African safari vacation

took me back to my roots—


the schoolyard in Queens.


Henry Manuso,

compact and mean,

jumped on my chest


and pounded me down

to the painted white stripe

we lined up on

in size order.


He was the smallest

and first.

I was a foot taller,

in the back.


He rode me like a horse,

using my book belt

as a lasso,

scattering my papers

like frightened prey.


I limped home,

my friends, a cackling herd,

following me


to the screen door

my father had spent

his Saturday putting in

to protect us.


Michael Mark is the author of two books of fiction, Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum). His poetry has been or is scheduled to be published in The New York Times, UPAYA, Awakening Consciousness Magazine, Dead Snakes, Empty Mirror, Sleet, Outside In and other nice places.

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