When Joe Jumped from the Upstairs Window

Mom and Dad told Joe to go to bed
until they were blue in the face. He balked—
the party was going strong—so they locked
the door at the head of the stairs instead.
Preferring the company of adults
to that of kids his own age, all the more
because he was able to hold the floor
on a wide range of topics, while insults
and babble were all most kids could handle,
he climbed out and stood on the window ledge.
Using his nightie as a parachute,
he leaped, exposing us all to scandal,
and dropped like a rock to the boxwood hedge
between house and walk—gave me a salute—

and limped to the front porch. I heard the bell
through the crack under the door, and the voice
of Uncle Hank, who always threw a choice
word or two into the pot—this time, "Hell
if it ain't the brat!" to peals of laughter
from the other guests, and rounds of applause
as Joe recounted, blow by blow, to Ahs
and Ohs, his perilous flight. And after
the last guest left, after Joe's last story
laid 'em in the aisles, knocked 'em from their chairs,
hit 'em on their funny bones, made 'em weep—
euphoria sweeping him to glory
beyond his dreams—Dad carried him upstairs
and tucked him gently into bed, asleep.

[First published in my chapbook, Brother Joe (1998)]