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We pilfered our fathers’ Marlboros
and met behind Luke’s mostly empty house.

We brayed and bragged and blew smoke rings 
big enough to stick a fist through. 

We courted cancer like Luke’s gone mom, 
moved on to booze when summer ran out.  

We numbed in the winter willow tree 
where Luke’s big brother built us a house. 

Luke and Jimmy, Luke’s brother, and me—
necking and fumbling in that willow tree.

We ranged like lemurs in its dripping 
branches—hiding, seeking, finding, clasping.

Mary Beth Hines writes poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction from her home in Massachusetts. Her work appears in Crab Orchard Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, SWWIM, Tar River, The MacGuffin, and elsewhere. Kelsay Books published her debut poetry collection, Winter at a Summer House in November 2021. Connect with her at

© 2023, Mary Beth Hines

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