A Big Chief tablet and a Bic
between us on the car’s backseat,
the scaffold drawn, and underneath
a code of dashes in a row
for seven letters. Part of a stick-
figure fixed to the noose’s O

for every letter missed, until
if I’m not careful my poor guy
will hang with x’s for his eyes.
My brother parlays his resource
for big boy words with taunting skill:
“It starts with d and rhymes with force.”

But I don’t know the word, don’t know
the wet world being slapped away
by wiper blades, or why the day
moved like an old stop-action film
or an interrupted TV show
about a family on the lam.

I let myself be hanged, and learn
a new word whispered out of fear,
though it will be another year
before I feel the house cut loose,
my dangling body and the burn
of shame enclosing like a noose.

David Mason’s poetry collections include The Country I Remember and The Buried House. He has won the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award and is co-editor of the anthology Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism. He teaches at Colorado College.

First published in Measure, Volume 1 (2006)