Z

by Mario Petrucci

Armstrong making the moon, was z. Giving that chicken

next door a synchronised Chinese burn for sidling

his angular wish-bones into our hide-n-seek: z.

 

Zapped, before break, your double-dare to work it

into Maths. If 4a – 4b equals 2a + 6b, what is a?

and I said z so dead-pan Sir had to scan the board.

 

Word got round. We were the brothers determined

to have the last letter in everything. Even Dad,

belt aloft, demanding to know what devil we’d done

 

in his shed, mouthed air when (backs to the outside

toilet wall) we finally surrendered our stupendous

name and rank – z – then chose bed over a hiding.

 

We pitched our duvet tent with knees; you shook

the torch like a cocktail to revive it. Till the dreaded Mum

brought it all down with three dull crumps from below.

 

You’ve got balls, you grinned. But it was a year

before I sprouted my first real cock-feather – chinned

z straight at the bully without back-up, his neck

 

wattle-red as he came at me, arms outstretched,

to wring mine. That night, you turned coat. Flushed

at me, shot short words at what the hell I’d expected

 

as you continued to tease your fringe in the mirror

and for God’s sake wasn’t I just a bit too old?

Your bedroom reeked of Elvis, and with those

 

few words z span away black as vinyl, became instead

that lost world the end-of-song guitar starts into

just before it fades to crackly nothing.