(photo: The Consumerist/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0)
I was verbally and physically assaulted in a parking lot at a local grocery store by four people because they thought that my shorts were too short and that I looked like a “faggot.” They didn’t try to take any money. They didn’t try to steal the beer I had just bought. They only wanted to hurt someone. And so they left me with a swollen face and jaw and a black eye, with a confused mind and troubled heart. I was up all night with tears and nausea and roiling emotions, then went to the ER. Three fractures in my face.
Below is a poem I wrote about the incident. I don’t feel anger against the perpetrators, only confusion and pity and sadness. I also don’t take credit for not feeling anger. It’s simply the natural course my mind and heart have taken. But I will say that it has allowed me to recover psychologically from the incident in a way that I don’t believe would have been possible if I were plagued by anger and desire for vengeance. I’m grateful for this grace.
The Way They Loved Each Other
What to be more astonished at:
my calm as the fist made contact
and I saw a flash of white
and the world went silent
as if I had stepped out of it
momentarily, only to be brought back
with a rush of sound and visible objects—
the way I asked them to help me
find my glasses, expecting them
(even as they taunted me,
even though they had just assaulted me)
to feel underneath the violent tribal urge
the obligations of empathy—
the way even as one of them found my glasses
and smashed them again on the ground
I refused to believe that was really
what he wanted to do—the way
they loved each other
in the most primitive manner
but loved each other nonetheless
despite feeling the need to punish a “faggot”
who did not dress like them, because
he did not dress like them—
the way tears and nausea overwhelmed me
nightlong much more than had the blow itself—
the way such small suffering can feel
unbearable—the way no strength is found
for what seems to have no explanation,
a troubled mind more harmful
to the body than fractured bones.
Luke Hankins is an associate editor of Asheville Poetry Review and lives in Asheville, North Carolina. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared in Connotation Press, Contemporary Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry East, and The Writer’s Chronicle, as well as on the Being Blog. He is currently editing an anthology of poems due out next year from Wipf & Stock Publishers entitled Poems of Devotion. He regularly posts to his blog, A Way of Happening.
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