by Michael Passafiume
There’s me. My two year-old frame—grabbed
at the shirtfront by Father’s whiskey-soaked
fist—soaring through the air, in-between screams
from the Mother, the Brother, the Sister,
staggered synchronicity of neighbors’ heads
poking through shuttered curtains,
wondering who was going to call the police
But it’s okay, I landed on the couch,
bounced up a few years later on my feet
in the kitchen pantry, arm reaching, reaching,
for a box of matches because
my childhood would have looked so much
prettier in flames.
Instead my hand closed around
a box of razor blades, crimson leaks
springing from fingers, red flag
of surrender waving impotently behind me
as Mother and her red-lipped, red-tongued
lasso chased us both into the bathroom.
Parents traded accusatory glances
that night at the dinner table while I,
bandaged hand kept from view, taught myself
how to use a fork with my left hand.
First grade, first day, new town.
Class full of strangers. Bathroom key attached
to a board the length of my forearm, footsteps
echoing down an empty hallway, kicking
dust motes through slivers of sunlight.
Zipped and flushed; I stood at the urinal,
inhaled fear, exhaled a stifled sob:
nobody told me grade school was such
a lonely place.
Afternoon recess, warm breeze
ferrying summer break on its wings,
a game of hide & seek:
girls vs. boys.
Missy Doyle found me cowering
behind a large rock and kissed my cheek.
I pretended to wipe it off, then tucked it
into my pocket as she ran away.
Later that year the principal asked
the fourth grade class for contributions
to its time capsule.
I hid that kiss next to a Super Ball under
a Reggie Jackson baseball card:
ten more years and I get to find out
if it’s still there.
Michael Passafiume is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Alembic, The Blue Hour Magazine, Dirty Chai, Drunk Monkeys, KNOCK Magazine, The Louisville Review, Meat for Tea, Minetta Review, Poetry Quarterly, SLAB and The Subterranean Quarterly, among others. His chapbook, “archipelagos,” will be published by Blue Hour Press in Spring 2015. Michael was co-poetry editor (2012-2014) at Lunch Ticket, a literary journal from the MFA community at Antioch University Los Angeles.