I’ve Stayed in the Front Yard


I’ve Stayed in The Front Yard

after Gwendolyn Brooks

My father never drank except at Christmastime, I’ve
never seen a brown bottle drain until I was seven, stayed

at my grandmother’s house and knew the skank smell of alcohol, in
winter where cigarette smoke looks ghostly, the

ash tray a black patch of night, he sat on the steps in front
of the garden shed, and I watched breathed pain billow across the snowy back yard

and came back to my grandmother’s warm kitchen, where I could not smell all
the taint of sin that was roadside addiction and played on the crime shows my

mother watched on the TV, the dark living room in the night all my life.
A couple winters later we would come back and I

would be older now, a black Wisconsin sky drove an insatiable want.
At midnight, my aunt sang and poured drinks, a

curious child standing in the doorframe for a peek
at the golden liquid that bubbled to the sky, at

midnight, a champagne glass of orange juice was fitted into my hands, the
thickness of the pulp, I felt twenty-one at twelve, drinking leaning back.

what is it that real men do, I never knew how to be strong and
bold and to wear

fire on my beating chest, the
flame that does not ash. I screamed into the night to sound brave

and heard no return, no world shake in fear. The real man in me pulled on his stockings
and left the room, vaulted the fence of

the front yard to the back, the unknown, the night-black
I folded and faded and bit unknown lace.

I heard the night owl’s coo of disapproval, me—the collective bad, and
yet I picked myself off the dewy ground and through the mud and grud to strut

my first steps across newfound grass, and down
to the stream to wash my dirty shins, “I am almost sixteen and I want to see everything,” the

unfounded land, to be carried by new waters, vault down untouched city streets
my mother will tell me “you’re too young” with

love, but I have freshly-coated war paint
and I ride on

the air, the leap of faith, the hunter’s and hunted’s prowl on my

Author Headshot

Brendan Nurczyk is a high school sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida. He has been published in his school’s literary magazine Élan, has been recognized regionally for his poetry and fiction by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and will attend the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio this summer.