Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.

—Lionel Trilling

They rob banks, mostly, in broad daylight,
hoisting automatic weapons—

Well, no. Of course not.

Although I like the vision of a rather
mature crowd
wearing orthopedic shoes and knit pantsuits
tipping over-sized glasses to shoot intimidating looks at the teller,

I'm afraid I borrowed that opening, the guns and the daylight, in particular,
from nearly thirteen
hundred different films. I suppose it's true there's nothing new under the -

Can't say that either. Maybe,
given that the goal here is to talk fresh,
we should look within and ask ourselves
a few questions about all this thieving, for instance:

Could robbers ever go
into a hardware store and buy
their tools disguised as ordinary men?

Which is something my son asked me the other day.

We were walking to school
over the cobblestone streets
of the hill town where we live, and his question

felt both archaic and accurate, and I wanted to hold him close, near
the almost pleasant pain in my heart,
spurred by his concerned query, and even as he said it,

I was thinking how I'd take it from him and put it in here.

And could they hide behind
trees until the sun went down
and then sneak out to do their robbing?

Mesquite trees are small, I pointed out, and hard to hide behind,
and besides,
most robbers already look like ordinary men.

Like you, Dad?

Like me.

But you're not a robber.

Oh no, I said
to this boy who tells quiet stories to himself and half-believes them,
I would never take anything that didn't belong to me.

Michael Bazzett's poems have appeared in West Branch, Green Mountains Review, Best New Poets, The MacGuffin, The National Poetry Review, and Rattle, among others. He was the winner of the 2008 Bechtel Prize from Teachers & Writers Collaborative, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. New poems are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Bateau, The Los Angeles Review and Sentence. He divides his time between San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and Minneapolis, where he lives with his wife and two children. (mbazzett@gmail.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761