I went for a walk around
the neighborhood one night, 
cigarette to stifle the words 
I wanted to say to my then-wife,
a pickup truck full of yahoos
coming up the one way
the wrong way, coming toward me.

Because I was in a mood, I gave them
a look as they went past; 
the driver hit the brakes and a man 
hopped out of the bed with a baseball bat. 
He joined me on the sidewalk, 
slapping the bat against his hand,
said, C’mon, boy
stretching boy into something 
sordid and foul. He said
C’mon boy. What are you going to do?,
in the same tone some men use 
when bullying their wives, 
or to heckle their kids for 
being fat or falling down.

It’s been twenty years
since that night, one marriage done,
the second in progress, and there are times 
when I’m tasked with standing up for myself
that I can hear his voice, 
the laughter as I ran down the street,
my hot shame like a parrot on the shoulder. 
Time heals wounds, they say, but some fester,
open sores that won’t close proper
until this life offers some chance for redemption, 
some four-alarm fire to walk through 
to save the pitiful cat.