|Averill Ann Curdy
Because I wanted to learn what harm felt like,
and because that turgid bulge of flesh
not quite restrained by her waistband
repelled me faintly, I pushed my cousin
down the stairs. It shocked me, too, a little,
the way a kitchen knife can startle
with a cut so fine and unastonished,
coming from a place you've always known was there,
you might have wanted or half-created it.
The basement shaft smelled of new lumber,
green-white as a chestnut, perhaps,
collared upright and planted to soften
the raw subdivision carved into the hill.
Older cousins had hissed tales of a man
living down there, hid like a weevil
in beans and flour, behind homecanned
produce and preserved meats put away
for the Last Days.
Sometimes, outside playing
I swore I saw him, roaming empty
cul-de-sacs, the lost and ravaged numen
from a landscape now bulldozed into clay.
I thought his name was Armageddon,
who wedded one to fear or to the stray
excitement that might split apart a day
with a lissome jolt to the nerve, like tin-foil
chewed on a dare, an unadmissable pleasure.
No mercy, we'd aver, through
Chinese water torture, Indian burns,
and games of Smear the Queer.
And though I should have feared myself,
that ecstatic cruelty on the stair, I didn't.
No remorse, only a sort of curiosity
towards my own self, my breathing slowed
as the hunter's heart between whose beats
he'd address his target. I imagined
the pad of her back resistant to my palm,
then felt its sudden quick assent. Over years
our parents shoehorned it into accident,
but couldn't, at the time, keep from asking
why? Whatever lie there was I couldn't give it.
Because, I said. Just because.