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I remember their ugliness
Like girls in class
Who were kind to me
The tree held them
Out to us like beggars
Outside a church
Selling portraits of saints
Torn out of books
Smiling we shook
Our heads and went on past
Into the cool kitchen
To eat sweet store-bought apples
Granny Smiths and Honeycrisps
That had been picked green
And gassed red in the trucks
But some days we'd stop
And take a crabapple
Shaped like a cramp
In our hands
Wary of worms
We turned and turned them
Like Adam and Eve
Resisting temptation
Before taking the bite
That exiled us all
Sour and mealy
They dried out our mouths
So that we spat cotton
In a pantomime of autumn
We dropped them
Down through the bee-hum
Into the cidery mash
The lawnmower had made
The shape of our mouths
Browning in the grass
The color of regret
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The silver sticker on the lower-right pane
Of the north-facing window of my childhood bedroom
Was to let the firefighters know that
There was a child up there

It was also what made fire possible
Depicting as it did a firefighter
Carrying an unconscious boy
Who looked like me in his arms

Had it not been for that sticker
I would never have lain awake
Imagining the tongues of flames
Flickering through the jambs

Crawling on hands and knees
Under the firmament of smoke
The ladder leaned against the sill
The axe shattering the glass

And me being carried
Down to earth rung by rung
To be told the hard truth and then
Sent to live with an aunt and uncle

The sticker that may have saved me
Suggested tragedy which is why
Some nights unable to sleep
I picked at it with my nail

But it could be peeled off
As easily as the moon can be
Peeled off the surface of a pond
Which is to say not easily at all

There are no stickers on the windows
Of the room in which I sleep now
No one knows anyone is here
And no child sleeps in that room

That I slept in as a boy
Though the sticker insists
One still sweetly does
As it waits for the axe to shatter it
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