You Don't Know What's Inside, Part III

After my father died of crazy and exsanguination
from self-inflicted cuts to his arms and legs
my mother married an ass-hole from Birmingham, Alabama
with a name that rings of
black magic about that place:

James Kirkman Jackson, Jr.

My stepfather was an evil wizard that we all feared
like a dragon.

The birds singing in the woods all around us
I watched him
hold our dog by the throat,
he slammed the dog’s back down onto a rock,
punched the stupid animal in the face
at me, blaming me
because there was shit
on or near
the white shag rug,

I watched him
smash his VW Bug
one night
for breaking down
between the train station
and the carport
so he dented the hood, the door and broke the windshield
with his briefcase,

playing a game of soccer with his friends
I beat him down the line,
I watched him
step on my calf to break the ankle
and brag about it
driving home,

I watched him
hit my half-sister
with a switch,
made her stand in a corner,
sick shit
for crayons on the wall,

with a headless wooden lacrosse stick next to my bed
I slept lightly
waiting for the yelling in the bedroom
over my head
to go wrong –

he was fear and I wanted to kill him more than I have ever wanted
my fantasies of murder

The rock where he punched the dog named “Shoes”
is where he broke his back:

the landlord wanted him to help
clear some vines
from around the mouth of the chimney
so on Saturday Mr. Louth
held the two-storey ladder
as Kirkman grabbed some ropey green vine
shaking up a clay gray mottled nest
that put a wasp
between the inside of his glasses
and his eyeball,

he jerked
broke the landlord’s nose
and the rock
the size of a VW’s hood
made him soft and easy.

After walking home in the dark from an all-day soccer practice I
heard that he screamed and was sorry I missed that.

When he came back
the wizard conjured an eighties convergence of cocaine,
he said it helped the pain
and Uncle Billy had it in spades,
mom’s friend rubbed it on his sores
after tennis,
everyone did it with him:

friends from high school,
cops came by,
detectives came by
things got shadier, sketchier,
he stopped paying taxes one year,
double-downed on bad ideas
wrapped up in weird rich people shit,

his sister sent a fur coat from Paris
to our house,
some tax scam,
I had to be home after school on Friday
for UPS
until six

and at six
Holly Riehl stopped at my house
and I’ll never know why
the hottest chick in high school
pulled into my driveway
but it was six,

mom was nervous when I got back,
wouldn’t look at me and gave me the slip
the UPS man left in our mailbox
at Holly fifteen O’clock,

Kirkman had on his pinstripes, braces and wingtips,
the monkeysuit he wore
when he fucked around on mom,
his black hair slicked back
like a real evil punk
and said to me
you really crapped in your mess kit now, boy,

I let nine years of sitting on top of id go:

I threw a chair at him,
slammed the door to my room
and waited,

I had worked on the farm that year,
I had worked
lifting, throwing
fifty, sixty pound bales of hay,
pushed Oxen in the mud,
ate while walking or half asleep,
worked my
ass off
so I’d be strong enough
for the dragon,

mom tried to stop him
on the way to me,
he slapped her to the side, stepped on her
and did his thing:

grabbed my throat,

violence allowed things
to slow down,
green blue eyes
had the time to grab
black brown

and I,
full of Holly,
full of uphill farmwork
made room enough
to shift my neck
under his grip
so I could say,

“You’ve broken your back, Kirkman,
don’t forget I can hurt you.”