Alex Gallo-Brown reflects on one man’s acts of violence, and the impact they have had on his life.
A History of Violence
No anti-epiphany. No sudden
precipice. Just the barely-audible
susurration of poetry
leaking out of my life.
Things become just
concrete in a way
that needed no exploration.
My new life littered
with receipts floss picks q-tips
multivitamins remote controls ice trays
websites forms applications
in need of my name, my signature,
and suddenly I was feeling very described,
as Ed Dorn would say.
I am not making excuses here,
it is important for you
to understand this.
She was there
and then she was not there,
an aching hole only
when I gave enough attention
to my life for it to ache.
These sheets are not why
I don’t sleep, I have changed
them three times this week.
Still, I lie here, the bed empty
besides me, a pillow hugged
to my chest as though
the feathers were daggers
with which to murder awakeness.
I know nothing of violence.
Once, when I was fourteen, I shoved two
twelve year-olds—one with each hand!—
into the middle school
They had been messing around
with my friend,
who was on crutches at the time.
He shuffled away from them
while I chased after him,
It felt good, the way candy tasted.
Another time, I punched a kid
after he grabbed my shirt,
and we scrabbled for a minute,
After that, we were closer than before—
we shared a certain bond,
a commonality of experience.
Another gym class, I tripped
and hit my head very hard.
My eye swelled up so large
that other kids gasped
when I marched by
looking for my orange juice-
colored school bus.
All I wanted was sleep,
but they wouldn’t allow it—
someone slapped my face
so I would stay.
The day I learned that my girlfriend
who was not my girlfriend
had fucked a boy in a far-off city
(she, too, in that far-off city),
I drove south on I-5
to gamble on horses.
It was June, eighty degrees,
a beautiful Seattle day—
a kind of divine reward for enduring
all those months of shitty gray.
I stood among sheaves
of discarded betting slips
while the air reeked
of spilt and stale beer,
and also the odor of compulsion,
and typed terse text messages.
I was calm as I detailed the precise sexual acts
I had performed while I was her boyfriend
but not her boyfriend.
She begged me to stop, but I kept on,
babbling and frightened
Lately, I have been feeling less frightened,
but still there have been times
when I have fled otherwise salubrious
meals with friends, convinced at any moment
that a runaway bus might strike me dead
or that I would suffer some other
spontaneous death, my life snuffed out
in the amount of time it took
to swallow a crust of bruschetta.
Isn’t it true that the more pleasure
one experiences in life,
the more one begins to fear death?
Would you believe me if I told you
that that idea comes from no philosopher or poet
but a professional cut man named Cus,
a man who wields gauze and iodine
to staunch his fighter’s blood?
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