Dennis Martin couldn’t wipe the smile off his face to save his life.
“You think this is funny?” the principal would ask,
fingering Dennis’ chest. “Look at me,”
he’d say, backing him into a wall.
He was a big boy---six-two, 220, sophomore year.
A natural, coaches said, but he couldn’t keep
the foolish grin off his freckled face.
Shaking their heads, they’d send him home.
Kicked off three teams by senior year.
One spring day he walked out of school,
never came back.
You don’t need a diploma to clean the emergency room
of Boston City Hospital where he had access
to every pharmaceutical imaginable.
He needed every one to keep the smile on his face,
mopping up the night’s bloody remains.
“Dead man’s shift,” he joked with me, last time I saw him.
By then he was a spindly scarecrow, pale and shaking—
an ill-wind ululating within.
The freckles on his face stood out like scabs.
I bought him a beer. A month later he OD’d.
At the wake the casket was closed.
I'd like to think they couldn't wipe the smile off his face.