By Kathleen Balma
There’s a bouncer in this poem, watching
you read it. His name is Vic. Vic won’t make
eye contact, won’t bug you unless I signal
distress. I’ve never had to do that in poetry
yet. He was in the army. Discreet as a landmine.
As long as you keep still and do nothing
while I work, he won’t interrupt this lit
experience. Vic may or may not have killed.
He may or may not use meth. He does work out.
He does know my routine. He’s seen me do it
dozens of nights. He knows all the words
to the money songs. His peripheral vision
is muscular. It sees every crook and swerve
of me, though he and I don’t speak and I
have never touched him. It’s crucial that you
fear him while my naked’s in your face.
Only sometimes you need more. The dog
tags looped through my shoe strap, those
aren’t Vic’s. I can defuse a bomb with my teeth.
Kathleen Balma is a Fulbright fellow and veteran of the U.S. Navy. Balma has published widely in numerous journals and anthologies, including Pushcart XXXVII, the Montreal International Prize Anthology, and the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize Anthology. Her awards include scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference. She works at New Orleans Public Library.