The boy stared at the flag-shadow as it waved
from the confluence of the walls and ceiling.
As he lay on his side in bed he could hear someone
marching circles in the gravel around the flagpole.
Every time the boy lifted his head, the marcher
halted, the cessation of sound as eerie as its sensation.
In the morning the boy kneeled in the grass beside
the circle of gravel but discerned no trodden trail.
He marched his dad’s heavy boots around the flag
pole, his ear canted to draw in the crunch of gravel.
The sound of soles on rock replicated the kruh-kruh
monotone that permeated his room in the night.
Later, in bed, he lay on his back and watched anew
as the flag’s shadow swirled opposite his exhausted form.
Sleep slipped under him without warning before he could
attend to the stranger’s march in the light of the flagpole.
In the morning his mother told him to rake the trough
he had made in the gravel. He asked if she had heard marching.
Only you round and round like a lost soul in the chilly day.
When she asked who he imagined marching he shrugged, ashamed.
That night the light that poured on the flag popped. His mother found
no replacement so she showed him how to lower and fold the flag.
His room was dark that night as he lay on his side in bed
no flag-shadow waving. The marching began and gained force,
the gravel grated in his ears, the sound thumped in his chest,
thundered like a desert storm strafing concrete bunkers
and then ceased the moment he lifted his head.
The sense of being watched iced his blood, goosebumps rose on his arms,
and then a hard breath escaped him and kicked against the night
as he leaped from the bed and banged his fists against the window.
His mother raced into his room and pulled him from the pounding
and onto his bed; their form suggested a boulder set off down hill
but she managed to subdue him there in the darkened
room, and he breathed through his nose as she instructed.
The boy calmed and managed to untangle from his mother
who asked just what it was that had scared him so terribly.
When he told her about the man marching around the flagpole, she
smiled and asked him to lie as he had when he heard the sound.
He shivered when the gravel sharpened in his ears. She shook
her head when he asked if she heard the terrible sound.
She framed his face in her hands and adjusted his position
on the pillow so that he lay flat, his ear unstopped.
You don’t hear it now, she said, and he shook his silent head.
No one marching in the gravel. She put her hands over his ears.
The marching beat drummed but becalmed him as his mother smiled.
Kiddo, she said. That’s your heart pumping blood.
The boy flouted the laws of sleep that night as he flipped his
position on the pillow and listened to the metronome at his center.
Arly Jones is a college dropout – much like Kanye. One of his poems and two pieces of flash fiction were published in Eastern Kentucky University’s online journal Aurora. He lives and works in Frankfort, Kentucky.