Dust on My Feet
In biblical times you kick the dust from your feet
When you leave a place, never to return
Save it though
Save this ceremonial purification for big offenses
For when you’ve been made so invisible
So dangerously negated
That there is nothing left to do
But my question is, do you do it with courage,
Making a display to let the world see?
Or do you sneak off, quiet, ashamed, but happy to be alive?
I still hear your words
They echo and reverberate
Words of betrayal, like ice-cold daggers
Your non sequitur assault so totally unexpected
Deadpan, you spoke them a second time
Here, we hate faggots
You had invited me over
You wanted to show me something
There you stood
Rifle in your hands
Cold eyes, expressionless face
You said it for a third time,
We just do, you explained
And my world began to spiral
And my throat turned arid, dry
I waited for you to point the rifle at me
But then you shrugged
After a few moments stretched into an eternity
You shrugged, and relaxed your expression
And let the warmth return to your eyes
And then you were once again the friend I had always known
Your point well made
That demon part of you returned to its dark hiding
Want to learn how to shoot?
I can show you how to shoot.
Even now the memories flash through
My mind like still photos and gifs
thrown up on a wall
I aimed and shot and you
Coached me into this violence
With warm eyes and casual tone
You taught me how to aim and shoot the rifle
And all the while I wondered when that
Deadpan, cold-eyed demon would come out again
It’s been years now
I haven’t seen you in so many years
But we overlap in online connectivity
Our friends and family overlap
I see you’re married with children now
And I wonder, have they seen your demon?
Will one of them in some soft way not conform to the jagged parameters you keep?
And if that happens, will you realize then that they are more mine than yours?
We overlap in online social circles
Each like and share and comment and tag
From half a world away
A reminder, a retrieval command to the archive of my wounds
There’s dust on my feet
There’s still dust on my feet
And the way I kick it off
Is quiet, ashamed, just glad to be alive
But now I know, there’s courage in that, too.
Jaime Balboa's poems and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Timberline Review, Foglifter, Lunchticket, Hobart, Fictive Dream, The Write Launch, and elsewhere. He edits for Flash Fiction Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @jaimerb.