Strolling through a college town is like playing lead inspector
in some curbside murder mystery —
clues strewn everywhere in the gutter —
broken glass, an abandoned shoe, latex gloves,
a boutonniere that lost its bud, leaving only lace, brown ribbon, and a pin.
Who done what to whom and why?
Even the police drive those humming little hybrid cars,
which sneak up likewise on pedestrians and bad guys,
and when elections roll around
a slate of suspects reveal their motives
with little plastic signs posted on every other lawn.
In autumn, a cast of characters arrives,
dressed to the nines and rushing in out of the rain.
They bear boxes packed with military precision
and a series of bags marked with a Target.
It’s all smiles and bright expectations for the pursuit
of knowledge, pussy, and some really good parties.
Yet we all know, as they innocently lug
freshly painted bookshelves up the stairs,
that at least one of those objects has a bull’s-eye on its back.
Winter is the time of appliances.
Everyone has an alibi:
vacuum cleaners gargling carpet, dryers churning denim,
and the incessant tap-dance of computer keys.
It’s enough to send a man over the edge.
Instead, walk the streets at dawn when everything is silent
or late, when it’s all reveling stereos and studious tequila shots.
Bang! Suddenly it’s May, and they return to the scene of the crime.
Threadbare sofas, moldy futons, and the odd barber chair
come outside for air, lining up on the sidewalk
alongside the milk crates and cinder blocks
pressed into service as undergraduate furniture.
The ringleaders strand them there by the dumpster
and head home for summer, gossiping
about who done what to whom and why.
But despite parole, garbage like that don’t last long on the outside.
Soon enough, it’s swept up by another gang,
thrown in a dormitory cell, where,
surrounded by the scent of bud,
it must hold up a liquor store for one more year.