National Poetry Month: Day 11

The Ballad of the Boy Who Wanted to Shove a Soldering Iron in My Face, and Why He Was Right

I stood in a bathroom (not mine)
a foot from the door and listened
while shampoo-water dripped on
the floor and my wet back glistened
under buzzing strip light;
my ex was outside and speaking
which that night was freaking me out;
he’d just told a friend, “if I
see that bitch again, I’ll take
my soldering iron to her face.”
In my place you might’ve taken
fright, or started to cry; not I.
I turned off the light and waited,
until, as anticipated, Sam and his
silent audience sauntered away,
and (cold, drying) I slipped
back to the room today’s sexual
partner – not a boyfriend, just
a friend whose kindness ends
once you stop having sex (I’ve
had a lot: that was the first
incarnation of the ex). It stops
the minute you close your legs,
the friendship turns out to be not.
On this occasion I was told I
was dreaming, whatever Sam had
been scheming about it wasn’t me;
never mind that behind every door
in the hall there was a male brain
with an axe to grind over and over
again – my mouth was trouble, my
presence resented, but when
everyone’s ire was vented, half-way
down the vodka bottle the hands
would move to “fuck” from “throttle”.

How do I know now that he was right?
It wasn’t much later, just some
average night at the union bar,
with far-from-resolved issues floating
among our crowd like tissues in the
sink of some proud masturbator (Erik).
This is how I knew: interrupting,
“Feelings? You? Don’t make me laugh,”
he said, about four minutes before
I snapped and punched him in the head,
“You’re not even a person in the
first place.” So I seized his ponytail,
and smacked him in the face; the
ensuing ruck promised me further
unwaited infamy, and he told his
friends, “She’s always had it in for me,”
with a soupcon of suggestion that,
crazy as I’d proven to be, there was
nothing but his wounded dignity to be
considered. Perhaps if I’d be sober
I’d not have been over-inclined to take
his side; but the vodka coated the
remnants of my much-battered pride,
slipped inside my head and told me,
they want you dead, and with
no friends to enfold me in calmer,
sensible thinking – with no friend at
all except what I was drinking – it
was less than a week after my bar-front
attack when I launched from a window
and broke my own back.

Had he only been equal to the threats
he kept making (instead of being fearful,
swaggering, and faking) he might have
seared off the source of this shite,
left me burned and pitied, not still
seeking fights. But a victim’s never
equal in the stakes of sympathy,
and if bound for the hospital, it
wouldn’t be me who took it, but
whoever looked at my prescence and
said they’d not brook it; I was
an infection, a tick, beneath contempt,
and in the inflection of my name
to this day, I know it takes little
to incline people that way. I
open my mouth, the conversation heads
south and I limp out of the world
in disgrace, ready to wait in the
dark for an unearned burned face.

— Delilah Des Anges

Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF


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