“His small boy ears ”
filled our playground with exciting chatter.
Dan had grown a massive clump of ear wax
that heaved out from the canal.
Jokes were made about a wax museum
inside his ears and the price of admission.
He didn’t mind. Dan was proud of what he’d made.
He bragged it had been nine weeks and six days
since he last saw a Q-Tip.
At recess, all the boys crowded around him,
taking turns bringing their eyes level
with the mass of orange pudding.
Some asked if they could poke a finger inside.
He didn’t mind. Pushing in, they each
pulled out and smelt it, rubbing the goo off
on their clean white undershirts— and thanking him.
Each boy who took a turn made the same face;
The thrill of discovery and frown of disgust.
After Dan’s mom finally made him clean out
his ears, Dan went back to being unpopular.
In fact, having gone to school with the kid
from kindergarten through high school,
I can attest it was the only time
Dan ever came close to making a friend.
Sticking a finger in another guy’s ear
or letting it be done to you—
it always seemed kind of queer to me,
even at 11 years old,
while I still wore Velcro shoes and
my favorite color was secretly pink.
I remember wondering about Dan—
and the boys who couldn’t keep their fingers
raping one another with wet willies
or consensually sharing the marvels
and mysteries that lived and breathed
inside the tiny holes of their heads.
I still wonder about them now—
and whether at night while their wives sleep,
if they give in and dip a finger in,
smelling it, tasting it, and wiping it off
on their clean white undershirts.