was almost eighteen years old.
He loved to wear the kamikaze aviator's cap
his uncle had brought home from Guadalcanal
with the flap always dangling down under his chin
because somebody wasn't paying attention
or didn't know how to snap the buckle in.

One day Herbie asked if he could ride my
little red tricycle. I looked up and shook
my head, "No." Next thing I knew Herbie
was pedaling my trike up Mariners Place
and I was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk,
crying for my mom and justice

while Howard and the other boys ran after Herbie,
throwing stones and calling him names
like sparrows pestering a red-tailed hawk

though our big bird had barely spread his
wings before one of my pedals broke off
under the thrust of his size ten sneaker
and Herbie's Wild Ride was over.

This is my earliest memory:
a Mongoloid in an enemy aviator's cap,
pedaling up the street on a tricycle.
I remember the benign smile on his face
as he turned and looked back to let me know
it was nothing personaljust a matter of pure joy.

You can have my fucking tricycle, Herbie.


Poems by David Alpaugh:

A California Ad Man Celebrates His Art
The Young
The Man Who Loves Better Homes & Gardens
Hunger Artists
Impromptu Meeting in the Falklands
As We Watch McNeil-Lehrer
Electronic Epitaph

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets