Room for Let
I let you take my hand and lead me
to the back room where the bigger boys
beat you because they’d been taught that they should,
and you let them. You’d been taught that they would.
Cornered there in that clapboard shack where you rarely go,
you kissed me until I felt at home, writhing against rough walls
that pressed back harder than the weight of you on me
until their splinters became fish bones for future archaeology
in the curving space between shoulder blades and spine.
When you were finished, I was branded.
When we were married, I stopped sleeping
for fear I’d see the shadowy roofline in twilight’s lucidity,
fear I’d feel sorry for you and you would let me,
suffering a little extra so I’d remember
they took you here and beat you for no reason at all.
When you were gone, I peeled the skin from my bleeding back
and let the others pick the wood bones one by one:
in a cigar bar where he told me you never loved me,
on a park bench where he said I was rare,
in strong arms that didn’t flinch when I admitted imperfection,
and never a shackle to be seen.
One sucked the blood like the icing end of a birthday candle,
kissed the raw meat making inroads on muscle
and closed his eyes to say be healed.
The last I burned in effigy, mere kindling for a true fire’s glow.