The Game

They called it Manhunt, what we did at night
every summer once the grown-ups went inside to drink
and bet money on cards. All my cousins older boys

like my brothers, it did not matter that I hated
the game. We played. I only knew a few places to hide —
in my father’s shed where he chopped wood in the winter,

up the good sledding hill to the neighbor’s treeline,
behind one of the cars. It never took long for some boy
to sneak up silent and whisper go on, get out of here,

then crouch in my place. None of them would tag
me out, or allow me to be “It”. I was always running,
scanning the brambles for some overlooked spot

to tuck my body into. Cover blown. Not once
did I ask them to explain the rules. Nor would I admit
how the inky cloak of our backyard terrified me,

the dim yellow bellies of the fireflies our only light,
the towering shadow of the prize blue spruce
casting spindly fingers on the sky as I searched.

March 2017