Danny by Michael Flanagan


Danny                                                                                                                                                  


Sometimes they take him off the van in the morning

and it's like a convicted murderer being hustled down

the row toward the death chamber, three or four people

around him, hands at his elbows, ushering him along

on his crippled legs, keeping him from assaulting staff

or peers, getting him to a bench in front of the care

facility, telling him all the way that it will be all right,

sitting with him there, asking what's wrong, knowing

the most he can ever come up with is that he's frustrated,

a word he's been taught to use when he has no words

for whatever brain malady at birth made him unable ever

to choose his own dinner, understand the premise of the

simplest children's movie, go on a date with a person

he might one day love. With his balding head. With his

neatly trimmed mustache. The cellphone he loves blares

bad Christmas music beginning in July. He's a man child

with a grip stronger than a fleet of destroyers at sea.

He grabbed a workers hair between his fingers once,

pulled her low. He was about to start raining blows

on her head but was stopped just in time. That same day

he sang like always, off key, loud with joy. When asked

if he thought he had a good voice he replied without

hesitation, No. Then he began the song all over again.

“Listen Michael,” he said, “I'm singing fiance,” meaning

Beyonce. Holding his poor deformed hand aloft

he shakes it along to the music, a grin wide enough

to beat the world all over his forty-three year old face.

When a game show comes on in the tv room and a buzzer

sounds he tells the television to stop farting. He thinks

the word beer is funny. And the word poop. The bastard

has charisma. All the other clients who aren't afraid

of him love him to death. There are parents still alive

who love him. Two brothers who love him, two sisters.

Still, he's in a group home. It was overwhelming

for his mom and dad. As they aged the demands

on their time, the acting out. Physically he'd started

to hurt them. What care worker has ever loved a person

the way a parent does? How many swings with his fist

before Danny's shoved against a wall, his head pressed

into the sheetrock? Unless they die first and early a home

is pretty much where every mentally challenged adult

in America ends up. Ten dollar an hour people with maybe

two jobs and not enough sleep paying rent on a place

a lot less nice than where their charges live. A lot

of the world is as angry as Danny sometimes is. All

bruises aren't raised by accident. Thursday of the week

just gone by Danny apologized to me when I was putting

him in the car for an outing in the community. The seatbelt

wouldn't click closed. “Jesus,” I'd said, “this belt is bizarre.”

His voice in response was high and sad and desperate.

It was all up to me whether he got to go on that ride;

he didn't want my mood or problems to get in the way.

It was beautiful and honest anyhow, the words he

spoke: “I'm sorry the seatbelt's bizarre Michael.”



Michael Flanagan was born in the Bronx, N.Y. Poems and stories of his have appeared in many small press periodicals across the country, most recently, Trajectory, Paterson Literary Review, Trailer Park Quarterly, and Chiron Review. His chapbook, A Million Years Gone, is available from Nerve Cowboy’s Liquid Paper Press. His full length collection of poems, Days Like These, is now available online at Barnes & Noble and other select sites.