I was fourteen. From my upstairs
bedroom window, I heard the commotion.
Below, I saw the neighbor woman, flailing,
Screaming, caught in a stranger’s grasp
as he cursed and struck her. I flew down
the stairs, raced across the street, leapt
onto his back, fierce, angered, my arms
tight around his neck, shouting, reminding,
Never hit a woman! Never hit a woman!
It had not occurred to me that a man
might not know this, or a man might forget.
He twisted, turned, pulled at my arms and fled,
flustered, his fire doused, or wanting out
of such an unexpected public light.
The young woman disappeared without a word
into her house. I was done, blank, except for
adrenaline and a pounding heart, went back to
my room, back to drawing, and to inwardness.
Then, from downstairs, my mother called.
In the front room stood the starched, imperious
wife of a local judge, one of the town’s patricians.
“Young man,” she drawled. “I saw what you did.
You were so gal-lant, so brave. Such chivalry!
I wanted to thank you, and tell your mother.”
I stood there on the trapdoor of price and inexperience.
At nineteen, blind with love, my heart would break
and feel betrayed. Afterwards, I could turn on a dime
from kind to cold, with cold’s indifferent cruelty,
fall long into the sleep of lies, of wounded reciprocities,
split myself a hundred different , play
the righteous fool, or act the coward, run, explode.
But I was fourteen, gallant, impetuous, with all
of love’s lessons ahead of me to learn.
© The Estate of Sandford Lyne