When Rick Dillon who’d insulted
my breasts in the seventh grade
told my sister her hair was made of wire,
I pulled off my red and white oxford
and told him if he didn’t shut up, I’d hit him
and when he didn’t, I did: slammed
my shoe across his nose. On the way off the bus.
I glanced back just once. Everything I need
to know about contempt, I learned from his face,
how when someone named Richard calls you a name,
and snaps your bra, you don’t just sit there and wait.
How when a boy spray paints a swastika on the street
in front of your house, you whip the kid who did it.
How everyone feels contempt for something.
Whether it’s a girl whose breasts are too big,
or the Jew who lives down the street in your neighborhood,
everything strikes back. Forty years later I walk down
a pocked road running between two cow pastures.
The Tye River flows beneath a mountain on one side,
Taylor’s Store Loop on the other. Just ahead of me
the path marked by flags where a pipeline will cut
through the heart of the Shenandoah. There are people
willing to let go of this silence forever
to bring shale gas inland for twenty years.
Another proof that infinite love isn’t possible.
The need for money is real as this mountain
and not contemptible. But greed is another thing,
a bully whose smirking face the Earth will step up to
with a crimson shoe, a curse, and a beating heart.
Katherine Smith’s poetry has appeared in Poetry, Cincinnati Review, Missouri Review, Ploughshares, Southern Review and many other journals. Her short fiction has appeared in Fiction International and Gargoyle. Katherine’s first book, Argument by Design (Washington Writers’ Publishing House), appeared in 2003. Her second book of poems, Woman Alone on the Mountain (Iris Press), appeared in 2014.