Playing ringoleevio, saying ringoleevio
in a Bronx housing-project playground
with twenty-six best friends
whose names return two decades later
only on a midnight subway ride after a double work shift
or in Chuck's Bar past last calls
when the foam dries on the beer glass.

But I remember being the speediest, the slipperiest,
insuperable among the twenty-six,
rushing through cement barrels, up iron monkey bars,
leaping chain-link fences, scaling building walls
just to not be called it by my chasers' urban echo
on a summer dawn and noon and dusk,
age ten, five years experience
in dashing away, darting either way

a desperate escape from no one really
toward nothing really
toward no end or qualification
becoming a lack, just a nothing of a someone

stopping the game only
to smash dandelions in the pavement cracks,
to drown ants in puddles of spit,
to take a swing in stickball
against the barred windows of P.S. 100,
not knowing then how the running led to standing alone,
the twenty-six now dead, jailed,
couched in suburbs or other housing projects
now killing absolutely more than life itself
by killing time and whatever passed then for now,

back then when ducking junkies, who once played ringoleevio
with someone playing ringoleevio, with someone saying,
"Ringoleevio one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three."

Philip Vassallo

If you would like to comment on this poem contact PhilipVassallo at: vassallo@aol.com

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