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Fear: the Bully and the Fight Within
By Reggie Marra

A child, I learn that I do not know how to fight.
Smacked, seen, but never heard, I learn to disappear.
At play I feel the plastic pistol butt
in Kevin's hand cracking down atop my head.
Still, I learn that I do not know how to fight.
The crew-cut vice-principal threatens
to expel me if I do not cut my hair:
At sixteen I learn to fight.

At work, the vice-president vilifies me
publicly, confusing his position with my self;
my quick-trigger tongue is locked and loaded
and his angry, careless comments
meet my loud, exhaustive, accurate arsenal,
my steel-trap memory of his every slight and imperfection,
my white-hot explosion where a cool damp spitball would suffice;
I silence him with words of rage.
Surprised, exposed,
he later tries to ally himself with me:
I refuse.

Now the politician, the insurance agent, the police sergeant, the
paid endorser, the billionaire manufacturer, the parish priest,
everywhere I look and listen,
and Ed McMahon in my mailbox again and again,
try to sell me their cures for a fear I no longer have
and I say,

until the midnight gunkid jams the cold steel barrel
further into my bleeding temple and drags me
back behind the diner's stinking dumpster;
I taste death-- wonder if I will see the flash,
hear the boom, feel anything.

The fight within me, still, I breathe:
he fumbles through my wallet for some
meaning and a sense of self, but
finding only credit cards and cash
holds me closer and demands,

Don't you know who I am-- I could blow
your brains out without blinking an eye.

I breathe, the fight within me, still:
And don't you know who I am, I respond,
I could have you blow my brains out
without blinking an eye.

Reggie writes: "The closing dialogue in [this poem] was inspired by a talk by Ram Dass on facing death."

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Document last modified on: 01/06/2007

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