Not Hurting



We were close enough            you could not imagine           

            I was out of your reach.  I should’ve run                    I didn’t make it


easier for you. I wasn’t sure what was happening, and then

I was. Maybe you wanted to do it, and couldn’t, but I think


you had to, and you didn’t.                 Your breath quickened            

hardened         and your hands dug deeper   in your sweatshirt pocket.


You came closer,        and like a song I wasn't thinking of,

you fell away from me a bit, and came closer again,            balling your fists


in that sweatshirt.                                   Unable at last to pretend

there was anything else happening,    I think I was not alone


in doing just that.                   Your eyes pummeled a hole

clean through the street we walked on,                      and you filled it


            with not hurting me,   and then threw a match on that,

and the not hurting went up like dry leaves.             We could smell it,


and you filled the hole again, and up it went, until we’d reached

the end of the block.   Maybe you wanted to hurt me, and you were afraid.


That wouldn’t change your kindness.             That was your fear, earned

somewhere I’ve never been.                              You don’t mean that much to me.


I mean,            I don’t think of you nearly as often    as I would have otherwise,

            we both know that.                 But I don’t think anyone


has worked so hard not to hurt me,                 worked so hard          

            against their own wanting      to hurt.


As though you were saying                 to do right by myself,                         I must                  

              punish you,                 so I can’t do right by myself                          even if I could.           


Or,       is there any                 other weapon against violence                     but violence? 

You were that weapon.                       As though        you were saying,                    


I’m very upset with you.                                              I am going to kiss your cheek.