Evolution of the Grade School Bully by Michael Mayerhofer

He was easy to spot back then: rolled up sleeves,
vocalized ambivalence on female genitalia, the cliché
of his father’s hands unfurling bruises wherever
the moon couldn’t reach. At church camp, he shoved
a white grasshopper down Lindsey’s underpants
and called you a faggot when you looked away,
despite all the questions she might have answered
when she wept and raised her skirt to fish it out.
In high school, with tanks on the news, he duct-taped
your best friend to a flag pole right outside
the coach’s office and dared you to intervene,
smirking though his eyes were nearly as wet as yours.
But then, summer turned to autumn and you were surprised
to see him in your college creative writing class.
Thinner, front row, dark glasses. He couldn’t believe
you’d never read Ginsberg or John Ashbery, made fun
of the way you lit your cigarette and didn’t even
sport an ironic tattoo or asymmetrical facial hair.
He kept showing up at parties with six packs
of dark, foreign beers you couldn’t pronounce, women
with lip rings vying for his attention. You figured
graduation would end it but no—years later,
he stopped you at AWP in Atlanta just to remind you
that Carbondale wine isn’t fit to drink, and yes,
all writing is subjective (which is why yours stinks).
Then he moved in across the street and kept forgetting
your name. The chair gave him the bigger office,
the one that already has a rose-red cactus in the window.
All his blogs get translated into twelve languages.
Sometimes, you spot him at book fairs and coffee shops,
palming a yo-yo or a cigar and shaking his head
as you trip through another poem about your mother.

Michael Meyerhofer’s third book, Damnatio Memoriae, won the Brick Road Poetry Book Contest. His previous books are Blue Collar Eulogies (Steel Toe Books) and Leaving Iowa (winner of the Liam Rector First Book Award). He has also won the James Wright Poetry Award, the Laureate Prize, the Annie Finch Prize for Poetry, the Marjorie J. Wilson Best Poem Contest, and five chapbook prizes. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, North American Review, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Quick Fiction and other journals, and can be read online at www.troublewithhammers.com. He is the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review.