A few years back I taught him ball: the drop
step in the paint, the pick-and-roll, the base
line cut, how to keep his elbow in on free
throws, how to use his butt to shield the rock
from those who’d take it. In the sneakered squeak

of old wood floors and cold thumps of snowy
driveways, we played for fun and not for fun,
like anyone who cares. He was so small,
so slight, the peach fuzz on his arms so airy,
his milk mustache so comic and scary
I wondered would he ever grow? And when?

Now he’s cutting classes and his wrists
with an exacto knife, knowing this will
kill you. (You’ll live, which only makes it
worse.) Every time he shuts a door, he snaps
the whip of silence. His blank orbit grows

irregular. Experts say he’s acting
out, or up, depending on their bias.
A slice of skin is quite an act you think:
where’s his Oscar? In this small boy you’ve lost
the only prize your ex-wife gave you. Gifts
you gave come hurtling back broken but unused:

the electric guitar that could care less,
jumpless Air Jordans and wasted tickets
to the Bulls, Hendrix boxed sets, sundae treats,
explanations of divorce. He’s weighed all
this and plowed it under. He knows how new

becomes old, how rust rots the teeth of marriage,
how the ground shakes beneath your feet. He knows
the appeal of an approaching train. Now,
on a drug beginning with the letter
Z, offspring of a certain compound P,
the doctors with their dosage plans can build

him back to being, but can’t erase the scenes:
snarly sirens of police, I.V. drips
like grinding clocks, his squint against morning’s
sullen light, a machinery of shrinks
stoking the bright furnace of hospital.