The first time you held another boy: Forsyth Georgia

The first time you held another boy: Forsyth Georgia – Taylor Triplett

your bones are as sturdy as any chapel
your mother said this once. Now your
knuckles are purpled, ache with the promise
of more hurt. For you are that boy,
fighting shirtless in the stick-etched ring
behind somebody’s daddy’s shed.

It is November, cold, the sharp sun already leaving.
A right hook and your opponent spits red
into the dirt. The other boys cheer. He
did not want this either: this duel
to prove that what hung between your legs
rightfully belonged there. You are newly 18.
You want your shirt. The other boy
pops you in the jaw, twice, before you slam
him to the ground, his nose red, his eyes brown,
his body already kaleidoscope colors of hurt and healing,
that you did not cause. For this small town
likes to half-maul its men, releasing them
to hurt bodies that so resemble themselves.

You struggle, feel the tug and heat of his body
beneath yours, wonder if this is what Isaac felt
on that mountain top under the eyes of God.
A truck curls up the graveled drive, the horn
echoing like a machine rifle. Boys scatter.
You stand up, drag the other boy up with you,
bring him into your arms. Thank you. I’m sorry. Thank
you. I’m sorry. And someone’s father finds you this way,
holding and sobbing, hearts beating fast as any war drum.
You both stained and wet as any baptism and rightfully so.