The Outcast

The boy is not like
    the others.
Their bikes ascend the hill, 
storm down like whirlwinds. 
He always walks, 
  their wheels
   a dervish dance
whose physics baffle him. 
He passes the practice field,
hopes no one will notice him
as he carries his books
on the way to the library

(they don't wear glasses,
    don't read anything
    between June and August).

He has no idea
    what their cries mean,
    why it matters
that a ball goes
    this way
         that way.

When they let him come,
    he runs with some older boys,
over a fence he can barely scale,
    watching for dogs that bite,
to the forbidden
    apple tree.

They climb to reach
    the great red ones.
From high above
    they taunt him,
dare him to join them
at the sky-scream treetop.

He stands below.
Climbing a tree
    is one of many things
    he's not allowed to do.
They talk about baseball
    and BB guns,
the cars they'll drive
when they're old enough,
the names of girls
whose breasts have swollen.

He reaches up
    for the lower branch
    takes unripe apples,
    unmarred by bird or worm.

Walking alone,
    he sees a daytime moon,
    wonders how Earth
    might look from its craters.

He goes home to his comics,
    to the attic room
    where aliens and monsters
    plan universal mayhem.

Don't eat those apples,
    his mother warns him.
They'll give you a stomach ache.

I like them, he says.
Green apples taste better.


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