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When You Need to be Brave

by Allen Guest

I’m sure you know of acts bold and brave,
battlefield and ballfield, 
but I will tell you of an act of bravery 
and bold action without equal.
It happened when

I was one of four twelve-year-old boys running wild
in a suburban neighborhood – the old kind – the kind
where developers left some trees, and pine needles
collected on shaded concrete driveways in September.

One of four boys left unsupervised, hanging
out at Glenn’s house for a few hours
on a late-May afternoon, flush
with almost-summer excitement. We
made prank phone calls to the town drunks,
perused shoplifted Playboy magazines,
and played the Rolling Stones loud on the
big console stereo, the way our older brothers did.

Then we dared crazy Michael to run a lap around
the house – outside – naked – which
he did, and we crowned him ruler of our kingdom.  
But only for about five minutes, until 
Glenn stripped down,
went strolling out the front door at 4:00 PM.

We pushed the curtain back, watched
wide-eyed through the big picture window. Watched
Glenn ease down that driveway cool and collected
as a safecracker, across the road, into
the Hunnicutt’s front yard. 
He picked up a football,
punted it over their house, 
sauntered back across the road,
took the newspaper from the box, 
and pretended to read it as he
strolled back to the house.

These day’s I don’t do much that requires 
bravery, but when I do need to summon it,
like when I ask for a raise, or need to
take the car keys from an aging parent,
I think of Glenn and that May afternoon
in 1972 when we were twelve years old, 
when he sent a football sailing 
over the Hunnicutt’s house,
and brought the newspaper in 
before his parents got home.


Allen Guest is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Clemson University, where he teaches courses in the calculus sequence for science and engineering majors. He has been writing poetry for about four years. His work has appeared in Tilde, Flying South, The Petigru Review, The Esthetic Apostle, Cathexis Northwest Press, and From the Depths (upcoming). Three of his poems have been nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prize.


October 2019

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