Students come to me from solitary confinement
concrete oven set on high—
they come to me
a young woman from the University
who wants to talk about Paradise Lost.
They want to talk too.
Tony says when he broke in, he spotted a dog
and shot a man. Thought the house empty.
Billy Ray says he just needed money from the girl
at the ATM. My hand shook and the trigger went off.
They know why Milton’s God
clips Satan’s wings and kicks him out of heaven.
The man can’t take much lip. Just like my own daddy
knocking me three ways into Sunday when I say no to him.
Knuckles kneading my cheek blue till I cry stop.
The students ask if Satan’s the hero. And I wonder.
Did he endure that heavy hand one too many times?
Punched and mauled like a yard animal
taken behind the barn
left in darkness to find his way back.
First Published: Carquinez Poetry Review (2006). Ed. Ruth Blakeney.