Fred Shaw

Although it was my sister
who took the training wheels
off my Schwinn, and Sex Ed came
from a spongy copy of Penthouse
stashed in the woods,
it was Dad who first taught me
to ball a fist, keep the thumb outside,
and aim for the nose.

He wasn’t thinking of the punches
I’d later land on Darrell’s round head
and Kool-Aid stained mouth.
Year after year, I’d dish out
the same pounding
each time he visited his Aunt,
our one-sided backyard brawls
becoming less
about his weak Wiffle-ball play,
than my need for our game to end in his cries.

This is before I began
to stare at the handicapped
or whipped Mom with a wire-hanger,
before I stoned stray cats,
and mistook cruelty for honesty
when I asked my first girlfriend if the rumors
of her being a whore were true.

To say that I once preyed on the weak
as if it were a rite of passage,
would be to wonder if Darrell still remembers
how I taught him to spit blood,
and swear at the top of his lungs,
learning at my hands
how to give with all he had.


  1. I wonder how many people use cruelty for honesty.
    Words seem to be the one way to bullythat doesn’t leave marks on the skin but it can
    Cut the heart up for sure and that can be deadly.

    Sometimes kindness comes in the form of silence as nd a walk away or a phone hang up or a text smily face.

    I love that this poem reminds me that we are all bullies in one w ay or another.

  2. It sure does take a lifetime to grow up. Remembering times we were cruel is heartbreaking. I wonder how many times we try to make up for our past deeds with kindness – like somehow it can erase the past.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.