Lilacs hedge the yard
where my brother and boys in ball caps play capture-the-flag. They curse when they capture, when they get caught. Inside, my mother bakes a cake: folds oil and eggs into batter, 350 degrees for forty minutes or till the toothpick comes out clean. This is how her son will let her love him. This is how, when she lifts the pan from the oven with the same tenderness she may have lifted him, once, from his crib, and calls out the kitchen window, the ranks dissolve: prisoners and captors, shirts and skins, enter, clods of grass falling from their cleats. But neither the fragrance of lilacs nor the air dense with chocolate can mask the odor of almost-men who have learned, as if overnight, to lift each forkful in silence, leave bare plates, and return to the yard to finish what they’ve begun.