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Long Beach, CA

Rite of Passage in a Small Town

Poetry Blog

Rite of Passage in a Small Town

Brandon Cook

My aunt told me that my cousin, for something fun to do in this small town,
Would ride the square
"What’s that?" I said, as if I were in Rome pointing to a statue
"Ride the square, you know…get in a truck and ride around it" 
Then she laughed, and I was in on the joke 

There are rites of passage which blind the participants
They are drawn inexorably, like the swallows of Capistrano,  
Like those salmon jumping upstream to spawn  
Like me at my high school graduation growing a goatee of eleven hairs, so spare and sparse
I alone, exulting in my strength, was blind to the sad statement I made 

Little birds, you see, do not despise their strength
And we all flex whatever muscles we have 

"So they just ride and…what?" 
"Stare at each other, mostly" 
I nodded

Another rite of passage, saying
"Stare at me and dare me to prove I’m something"
This makes sense to me
With so much mad fear in the world that "I’m nothing,”  
It’s better to punch something and prove you're there
Better to feel pain than insane fear 

Not so bad, this rite of passage in a small town  
And really, pretty much the same as anywhere and everywhere, and anytime
The world one great town square, around which we ride with wary eyes