Dust on My Feet

Jaime Balboa

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

Reopened

 

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.