by Susie Swanton

One summer every night on the back porch I read books
and next door my neighbor would slam the back door,
light a cigarette, and sit down.
He sometimes took out what looked like a black fabric pencil case
and from that a needle, tap it, and jab it
into his thigh, right through his jeans.

The aliens flew low those nights
to take him up the tractor beam.
He never went all the way, not into the ship.

He hung in the sky as deep
gold in the streetlights
as my dad's capped tooth.
"That's not me,"
he'd say pointing to himself in the air
while still sitting in a lawn chair on the deck,
watching  his body turn slowly
as he turned slowly to me.
"That's not me. I'm not like that."
He hung quiet, and he'd sit quiet on their back porch,
staring at me while I read
The Martian Chronicles or The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

And what was it like to be as old as 19, I wondered,
what could his parents think, how could his mother hate him.
He always loudly whispered,
"That's not me, this isn't me,"
as his body rotated in the force field.
Every dig of the needle his body moved closer
to the belly of the ship.
"I'm not doing this. Only my hands are.
These hands aren't even mine."