Tony Webster CC
Ward of the State
He was brought in in handcuffs,
this young man I lived with for years,
his parents itinerant actors, I was told,
who left him with an aunt, one of whose
johns tried to drown him in a bathtub.
I was representing his legal guardian,
Willie long since a ward of the state,
too old for adoption, ever mischievous,
now arrested for trying to steal a purse,
pushing the old woman who wouldn’t let go.
He’d been selling loose joints on the ferry,
rumor had it among the boys still in the home.
Now he sat there for my counsel one more time,
crying like the child he had no chance to be.
“Mr. D, I screwed up. I’m so sorry.”
He was ashamed I had to see him this way.
and that’s how Willie always was when we
were alone, anxious I like him, but when
others were around, he played a mad clown,
flashing that smile of his, light as a feather,
rising above his sumo-wrestler’s body.
When he stole the agency car for a joy ride,
missing two days with three younger boys
he bribed to go with him, I had him sent
to a lock-down. That was three years ago.
I had not seen him since. Now this.
I patted him on the shoulder as he cried
and looked away. “Be strong for yourself,”
I told him. The guard walked him back.
That was the last I ever saw Willie.
I knew the whole world had failed him,
and I was part of that world, and I hated it.
Anthony DiMatteo's recent poems have sprouted in The American Journal of Poetry, Cimarron Review, Clade Song, Ekphrastic Review and ucity Review. His current book of poems In Defense of Puppets has been hailed as, 'a rare collection, establishing a stunningly new poetic and challenging the traditions that DiMatteo (as Renaissance scholar) claims give the poet 'the last word'' (Cider Press Review). A chapbook Fishing for Family is out from Kelsay Books.
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