The Old Four-Square
The old four-square sits alone but for the gnarled maples.
Its roof saddle backed, the galvanized metal rusted.
The house paint once doggedly clung to the clapboards.
It has given up, chipped and faded, flaked away.
The bare gray wood betrays faint lines of white paint
in its cracks, an echo of what it once was.
Around back someone once had a yellow ambition,
A newer coat of paint holds on, runs up to the windows
and then stops, as if no ladder could be found,
or the paint ran out, or some other distraction.
Curtains half hang in the unwashed windows.
There is no smoke from the chimney. And the barn
is long gone, done in by a heavy snow load.
In the old cow pen sumac trees flower red and flourish.
The Etymology of Callous
With his hands the boy spreads hope,
an opening in the hedge that pricks his
soft palms separating the branches.
He hears the contracting muscle
in the throat of a song sparrow that chirps
desperately. It has no alternative.
It is spring. With obedience
to some unwritten law the sparrow
must risk singing for a suitor.
The boy who is just old enough
to squeeze the trigger shoulders the BB gun.
He is surprised by the widening silence.
He feels the callus on his pointer finger
start to harden.
LES BARES lives in Richmond, Virginia. His poems have appeared in The Cream City Review, Stand Magazine (U.K.), Spillway, The Midwest Review, Southword (Ireland), The Tishman Review, and other journals. He won the 2018 Princemere Poetry Prize and was the third-place winner of the 2015 Streetlight Magazine poetry contest.