“The Myth of Pain” by David Glen Smith

At the bus stop, we watch the other couple.
They have hidden themselves in a corner,
away from the general movements of travelers.
There is a quiet casualness in the way she tugs
at a strand of her straightened hair, as she pulls
back her sleeves, exposing her brown arms when she leans
against her boyfriend’s shoulder.  The same slow motions
you took, angry and drunk,
leaning against a bathroom wall, marking
your arm with a paring knife, cutting soft scratches
into the skin. One for being drunk.
Two for being numb. Three, five, and ten for not helping
that man in the street—found an hour later,
the sidewalk darkening with his blood.
					But here,
tonight, the woman is closing her eyes. And perhaps
she is asleep; her fingers twitching on her lover’s tweed pants,
pulling at the small threads. She is imagining
a half filled cup of coffee, a white communion dress,
her mother’s dark hands hidden in the sink,
covered in soap suds... she wonders:
But why remember her, here?  Now?
					A bus arrives.
You shift next to me, opening a paper. And I wonder
if you remember how I found you
curled beside the gritty base of the toilet,
your hands still holding the knife.
Anger flaring in your eyes.
					Now she is mouthing
words, chanting to a song in her head: The man in the moon
came down too soon, and ask’d his way to Norwich.
You shift again, retying a shoe lace. He went
by South, and burnt his mouth with supping,
hot pease porridge. She frowns a little,
as if suddenly realizing I am waiting for a bus. I am
not twelve years old anymore in Mama’s kitchen,
the smell of starch on her hands.

She opens her eyes
and it appears she is looking at us; but she isn’t really
concentrating on our images: you reading the Voice, me smoking a last
cigarette. She is thinking back, pulling herself up,
pulling her sleeves down, remembering who she is now,
where she is half asleep.
					Looking down at your arms,
I can see no scars of that night.
Nothing remains but one pale scratch, almost invisible.


David-Glen Smith’s work has appeared in various magazines including: Assaracus (forthcoming), Saltwater Quarterly, ffrrfr, Houston Literary Review, Lady Jane Miscellany, Slant, and The Write Room. In addition, a recent print anthology titled Ganymede – Unfinished accepted two of his poems. Currently residing in Cypress, Texas with his partner of ten years, he teaches English Literature at both Wharton County Junior College and Lone Star College – CyFair. He received his MFA at Vermont College, and his MA at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.