Torment doesn’t wait for tomorrow,
he shows up tonight on Rofie’s porch
looking like Stevie Becker,
wearing Robert’s overcoat
and smelling like Jim Beam and Old Spice,
demanding something other than lunchmeat
for the wake and reminding me of Phillip Krause
and Kenyon Avenue.
He brushes past my elbow
and invites himself in.
The wind that follows him blows
my scribble to the floor
and my now withered arm
he belittles as skinny and weak,
asks me how it feels.
Stevie Becker was bow-legged,
they said it was rickets,
and he wore knee braces.
It didn’t seem a big deal being short
until they operated, broke, reset,
months of therapy, we were twelve.
It was a big deal,
he wanted to be taller.
Philip Krause was quiet, fat,
obnoxious, had terrible breath.
I hit him behind the left ear
with a toy hammer.
His head was bleeding.
I knew my life could never be the same
so I hid in the airy-ways
between the row-houses
on Kenyon Avenue.
Rofie, Robert and his parents,
they find me like Frankenstein.
He had to have stitches.
I get a beating with a horse whip
and get grounded.
I never saw him after that in the alley,
Torment pours a drink,
offers me the bottle, explaining
I should sharpen my pencil
and come off the wagon,
he’s found the whip
so cleverly hidden all these years,
it’s a long cold night
and we’re just getting started with Robert.