I used to collect my men

by boots beneath my bed

That’s two boots

for each man.

That tiny space filled up quite quickly

And then

I started making notches

on the bed posts

but those too

weren’t very tall.

Over the decades,

I’ve carried these fellas

In many sorts of ways

Slung over my shoulder

atop my back.

In tear stains upon my pillow cases,

and self-inflicted wounds.

I’ve wracked up heartaches

and harsh words


rolled eyes

and silent gestures

…and poems

I probably have a poem or two for each

and the words still seem to come.

It never gets old.

Every time

is like my first.

I haven’t got much left now

to show

But the number of times my heart stopped beating

and yet

I still survived.


despite all the violence

that hands can muster

they’re still outdone by words.

And like a fool

I return to the master

for another measly taste.

I’ve had my hair in many colors.

I’ve got tattoos

across the landscape of my flesh.

My skin lays atop me like a deflated balloon

because of the times

I’ve fed my pain to protect me

or denied myself the nourishment

I thought I did not deserve.

And no matter how I try to cover the marks they leave

You can see these men

all over me.

I would forget them all entirely

but they always return to haunt me.

So eventually,

I just kept them in a list,

That I put away for safe keeping.

And whenever I learn the name of the next,

I cross it out,

and simply write

“Just another battle scar.”

Because despite everything I will ever

learn about him

That is all he will become.