I remember several horrific incidents occurring during my teens. There was the murder trial that seemed to bring the ills of deep, dark Appalachia to our little town. Three young men, “men” being a misnomer, bludgeoned a 17-year old girl to death for no clear or acceptable reason, leaving her along the railroad tracks. As surprising as the murder had been, I was astonished when one of our town’s star athletes raped a girl later that summer and went about town as if he’d done nothing wrong.

The following poem is from a number of years ago, and resulted from a writing prompt in a poetry exercise. At the time, I had been outraged by the seemingly routine incidents of date rape across the college campuses of America. The following is a fictional incident.

Dave and I caught her.
We were out of breath
from chasing her down the
shore of the lake.
Dave pinned her
up against a tree and
wouldn’t let her go
no matter what I said.

Sun would be up soon.
I kept hoping old man Snyder
would come out
and start down the lake
to cast for his lunch.

Dave was pulling up
the front of her dress
to the point where
he shouldn’t. I

wretched just as he
reached inside her skirt.

I could not stop shaking.
This is just not right!
Just not right!

Right before Dave put his
hands where they

don’t belong
I struck him hard in the
back of his head with a rock.

Dave fell flat on his back
at the feet of the girl,
eyes staring up, not moving.

The girl was grinning,
almost sickly glad
what I’d done.

She kicked Dave in the side
and spit in his face, then
squeezed my hand and
whispered thank you
and ran along the edge
of the lake,
disappearing in the
morning fog.

©2017 Steven Barto

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