You Don't Fit In

by Graybyrd

Sheets from his bed must be washed by hand;
hung out to dry in the snow.
Tears of shame from the silent boy's face
fall on the sheets in the water.

Grey water wash in a sheet metal tub
cold on a rough wooden bench.
Red hands struggle to wring the sheets;
blue wind blows through the porch.

Hard words come from the room inside:
"They'll see those stains, so you can't hide
that filthy thing you do each night."


The yellow school bus arrives outside.
Face to the window, he rides alone.


Bull Durham comes in a cotton bag
pulled shut with a yellow drawstring.
Quicklime slumps in a brown paper sack
kept in the privy out back.

Stepfather stands over six feet tall with
bandy legs and round barrel chest.
He grabs the boy, cotton bag in his hand,
grabs and encases his privates.

Jerking the drawstring shut with a tug;
standing upright in self-satisfaction.
"If you piss the bed the quicklime gets wet,
it'll burn your pecker off!"

Silent in bed, the tears won't come;
he has fled where his feelings can't go
and he dreams of wizards in faraway places
invoking protections of magic.

Later that night the door bangs open;
rough hands check the bag is in place.
Morning comes, the wet lime is caked;
in shame, the boy strips it off.

"You're dirty and lazy! Do you know that?"
his stepfather shouts in his face,
"I give up! You're a damned disgrace;
you'll never grow up like a man!"


The yellow school bus arrives outside.
Face to the window he rides alone.


"You're very intelligent, but you don't fit in.
They think you're a loner, not one of them,"
the Principal admonishes the boy.
"You really should try harder."


Angry sounds wake him. His mother's scream
rakes a chill up his back; his naked feet seek
the pine board floor at the edge of his upstairs bed.
His stepfather's voice in drunkeness raised;
shrill woman-cries rattle his head. Alone in the dark,
he fearfully wonders, "How will it end this time?"

He has heard and hated this horror before;
the shouting and raging grows wilder each time.
Confusions of anger and fear cloud his mind.
Drunken rage and threats rule this house,
but she chose this husband; could she now recant?

The shouts are ominous, threatening harm;
fists pound the walls and smash the table.

He remembers his rifle and the rock-piled fields
and groundhogs dropped from a hundred yards out.
Stealthshooter walked a solitary path,
seeking peace in the silence of his ways.

Screams sear his mind with acid shards.
Whipping his head from side to side,
self-hatred of his weakness grows;
this madness will destroy their lives.

With worried grip he takes his rifle,
the walnut stock familiar in his hand;
down the stairs on stealthy feet,
he stands by the doorway to the room.

Unseen, the reluctant referee stands,
rifle held ready; steady hand holding
trigger full back, hammer hard down.
Death lies waiting under his thumb.

He hears a slap and his mother's gasp.
In dreamlike judgment he knows:
if he hears striking fists, the sound of blows,
he will step through the door and fire.

Eventually the raging slows,
madness subsides to mutterings.
Shaken, he waits, the mutterings go quiet;
shaking, he prays for escape.

Later he lay several hours awake,
till the dawn, afraid, never knowing.
Had he shot the man and the man had died,
what rightful judgment should come?
A righteous act for a terrible wrong?
Or a wrongful thing to intercede and kill?

The boy is too young, the answer won't come,
In time he gives up and he sleeps.


The yellow school bus arrives outside.
Face to the window he rides alone.

"You're very intelligent, but you don't fit in.
"They think you're a loner, not one of them.
"You really should try harder."


Patahoek petroglyph

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