Steve Henn

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Raised on Grease and Child Abuse
after Aimee Nezhukamatathil

for June session summer school kids 2017

They’d point at my penny loafers and
my black Tiger Basketball sweater and call me
Poindexter. This went on for a while. I didn’t
respond to their threats. The big kid
terrified me – giant white trash boy,
greasy hair, his father beat him,
he survived on McDonalds cheeseburgers and crystal
Pepsi, I don’t know, whatever. I didn’t feel
for him, he terrified me. The runt
with the orange hair I ignored. But after they
talked and talked about beating me up
one of these days off the bus (me: mute,
terrified, telling no one, hoping
it just wouldn’t happen), the little ginger
with the rat tail stalked me past the bus stop,
a series of jabs to my midsection
which didn’t hurt me or bowl me over.
I just stood there. Let him hit me. If I had it
to do all over again, I’d elbow smash his face.
Then the big boy pushes the orange boy
out of the way, says no, this is how you do it
and wallops his fist into my eye. That’s it.
That’s the fight. I bent over crying
and a friend from the neighborhood walked me
home, saying, you’re going to have a shiner!
Later, my dad told me, sometimes
you’ve just got to hit back.
But I’ve never hit back. Not once
in my 46 years have I ever hit back.

Uncle Buzz

I was adopted
by a family that tried
to raise me
in its image. Briefly,
they wanted me
to be one of them.

A patriarch, Uncle
Buzz, tried to show me
how to shoot an Uzi
but I had it on my
hip bone rather than against
soft flesh, and cried out,
then wept, when it kicked.

Buzz had an arsenal
locked up in the basement.
He showed us Ham
radio, said he never
lets them know quite
where he’s at.

When he tried to show
us boys how to do a kip
and I placed my party-
favor whoopee-cushion
under him, he landed
on it. It burst.

I didn’t want to
shoot a fucking gun
in the first place.


Steve Henn wrote American Male, Guilty Prayer, Indiana Noble Sad Man of the Year, and other stuff. Check out