He tells you he would kill you
and you think of the early boys
you kissed at recess on playgrounds
and ball courts. Imagine them now,
rough bodies grown lean; studied
at the choke, pin, and meat of girls.
Hands, stubborn and impossibly strong;
mouths sharp as scorpions. At least one,
probably, a bona fide rapist and the others,
masters in the sport of taming women
too wild for caging. You taste them
in the bars after work, air thick
with testosterone, whistle, guffaw.
The bellow of each voice hammering
a waitress into flushed bustle and unease.
Smell their brawn under work shirts
and loose-laced boots. Their eyes
shrink-wrap you small; leers, potent
enough to unfasten a dress. They
crack their lips to show a slice of teeth,
offer a calculated nod. You sink
into a beer and beg a new god to vanish
you. Quell the spear of your tongue
lest it ignite the waiting landmine
of their brotherhood. You know
what it is to be hurled sticky-backed
to a barroom floor, men’s room stall,
musty flatbed of a diesel truck.
Most of your years spent reckless
as a speedway, full of Southern Comfort
and colorful pills. You are no stranger
to feral heat, the pull of a shotgun, the holy
blaze of welt, cracked tooth, rug burn,
a row of tequila and salt. Carnal things.
Now you are forty and your teeth
are stained purple from wine. Those boys
who grew into men who grew into monsters
have forgotten your name. The only thing
left is to finish the bottle, smile and nod.
Originally appeared in The Journal.
photo credit A. Pittam