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Scott Beal - "Feats of Pain and Daring"

07.09.13

Once I got lost alone in the woods

and found my way back. It made me

not new or strong, but wary of woods.

I trudged through shallow swamp and thickets
of prickers and chiggers, through tree dark

stretching all directions, four hungry hours

and no one made me do it the way they make you

chug a beer through a mouthful of tampons
or get your back daggered into crocodile skin,

or spill over the side of a bark canoe

and swim the quaking mile to shore.

No one spun me with a blindfold and basket

and said, Bear this back to the house of your father

and he’ll pull the ripcord to rev your testicles

and carve you a sharp new Adam’s apple,

no tribe had gathered to cheer as I stumbled

clear of the canopy and back into my prescription

for Clearasil, my graph paper dungeon maps.
This was before I failed to swing back at bullies,

before the summer I failed driver’s ed

and had to take a makeup course at Sears

from a man who wore black socks with sandals.

It was not the woods where Wayne led me

to a Hefty bag of Hustlers, their centerfolds

stiff from snow. Not the woods

where Lee would stash a six pack of beer

and a box of stogies in wait for me, and slowly finish

two of each as I stood refusing to join him

in fear of my mother. Last week I sat to watch

a National Geographic special with my daughter,
and the screen filled with a million shimmering sperm,

like Hubble footage of a skyful of galaxies

thrashing their little flagella to race

at a tenth of an inch per minute

through vaginaland. I said, You have to learn

about this stuff sometime, and she said,

No I don’t. She’s eleven. At her age I was abusing

a St. Louis Cardinals wristband so early and often
 
I never had a wet dream. We stopped
the film before one brave sperm could ignite

an egg into a person who would grow to the age.
when they saw off your clitoris, or file your teeth

to points with a sharpened stone, or knit leaves

into a glove and fill it with bullet ants and watch

to see if you scream as you shove
your budding warrior hand inside.
They make you breathe

in a burqa, stuff your foot into glass, volt you up

on brown-brown and hand you a machete. They offer

a doctored passport and a waitress shift in London

where you find yourself bound to a dirty box spring

in a curtained corner. They want to test you,

they want to hurt you, they want to escort you

into the savage mess they’ve made of womanhood

and manhood. I failed in so many, I
was so lucky. I walked into woods by choice,

for kicks, it wasn’t supposed to smelt me into iron

and it didn’t. I even lied when I said I was alone.

I was with Greg Jensen, a boy I neither loved

nor respected, which made the loneliness worse

as we trod between wolf-whispering trees,

stomach-weak, scratched with brambles.

We had to hide the cowering boys inside us

and pretend we could hack it like men

who could swallow poison, take or give
a  whip without flinching,
like men who’d earned our way

to one day look a child in the face and say this

is how you grow up, this is how you die.

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Loss of Self

07.09.13

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Azeitice

07.09.13

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