He would grab me by the shoulders and slam my body into the corner

of the kitchen to the left of the icebox. I could feel his nails digging into the

skin of my back. He would shake me then and the room would become

blurred and mixed together. I equated these sensations with going crazy. I

could hear his yelling at me but it was difficult to connect the sounds with

the openings and closings of his mouth. His bald head seemed like an

enormous egg moving toward me in slow motion, growing larger, skewed at

one end. He would slap me full force across my face and head, causing my

ears to ring. He would hit me like that and scream hysterically for me to

stop crying. Hit and scream. Hit and scream. At first I could not stop

crying and my mother would push between us. I would sob and shake so

severely I felt faint. But with each incident I began to feel the pain less and

less. I learned to swallow and swallow and swallow until I gained complete

control of the emotion and contained it in my chest and stomach by holding

my breath. I collected the muscles in my face, tightened and clenched my

jaw so that it became sculptured into a perfect calm. By the age of ten I had

become an expert at it.

                                                                 — Excerpt from a therapy session



I. Falling


The blow

uproots me,

a sapling

torn by wind,

ejects me

off the world,


to a black hole

at the bottom of space


Shock waves


into the stratosphere

Continents, oceans blaze

Beggars riot in New Delhi

Perched above the dream

on smoking fragments,

I pack cartridges

watch my shape



Pale infant head,

spinning target eyes,

mouth of sparrow beak





II. Eyes


I am followed

by hooded men

stretching rubber legs

from tree to tree

along night streets

in the old neighborhood



Spotlights from their eyes

crisscross the pavement,

but I pretend not to notice

If I just stay calm

and don’t run

they might call it off —

dogs bored with their own



I keep telling myself:

“Turn down an alley,

crawl through a window,

wait as they slide by”

In the streetlight

I see the barbed wire



What offense has been committed?

Why do they follow

but never attack?

“Who are you?” I shout

“What do you want?

Give me more than echoes?”


Their light tubes converge

I can’t run,

legs too heavy,

and the weapon’s

strapped to my back

like a guitar


I prepare for an assault

that never comes,

just one large eye

opening above

the sycamores


I climb its beam,

poke my head into

a socket,

wriggle through,


into a field of flowers


I hear myself laughing,

“Aha…so this is how it is,”

and float like cottonseed

on a warm wind,

inhaling chrysanthemum,





III. Machine Gun Fire


The car has no driver

It takes the curves

at ninety-six


Crouched in the back seat,

hands chained to ankles,

I wait for the crash


The car fishtails

through stoplights,

railroad crossings,

striped road blocks,

plunges over

the hill’s crest

banging parked cars,

light poles, curbings,

the retaining walls

that funnel it through

the plate glass window


They stand near the pool table

under mobster hats

chalking cue sticks,

laughing at the wreckage,

at me broken on the floor


They are all here —


fathers, grandfathers,

generations of anger,

clucking tongues,

wagging fingers,

pursing lips


I find the leather case,

unpack each carefully oiled part,

assemble it,

adjust the sling,

load, release the bolt —

chink, chunk —

tuck it under my arm,

and then I fire


brain bit and bone


Before this is over,

I will kill them all