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Thursday, March 19, 2015


by Richard Spilman

Back when you were fourteen, small
and new to that school, three toughs
cornered you in the boys’ john, shoved
your head into a bowl of yellow water,
and when they let you up you screamed
bloody murder, hit anything your arms
could reach. To shut you up, the big one
put his foot on your neck and told you
what they’d do. You believed and cried.
Hands in pockets they left one by one
Silently, as if they’d watched a man
betray his friends for a moment of breath.
You dried off, picked up your books,
and went to class. You didn’t tell, and
the teachers didn’t ask about you wet shirt,
and the kids already knew your disgrace.

That was the last time you ever cried.
Not when you were wounded in war,
not when your wife left telling you
she couldn’t love a man so closed off.
You make money trading commodities.
You don’t buy and sell goods, you buy
and sell futures—someone always wins,
someone loses, roulette with wheat and gold.
You trade in illusions, in rises and falls
on a screen created by phantom sales.
Investors like fish rise to your bait.
At the reunions you bring your latest,
her blonde youth a testament to your
prowess, but they laugh behind your back.
For them, your collar is forever yellowed
with piss, your eyes rimmed with tears.

Richard Spilman is the author of In the Night Speaking and Suspension. He lives in Hurricane WV where he is discovering that a bathroom above a garage makes for a frigid winter.