The Fall

by Benjamin Myers

Like a water stain grows on old carpet,
a bruise is spreading on my daughter’s cheek
after she’s fallen from the hanging rings
at her gymnastics class. Girls in pink tights—
one inexplicable in a tutu—flock around her
on the mat over which they’ve one by one been rising
above the smell of sweaty feet and chalk
to hang a breathless moment and dismount.

Later we cruise the supra lighted aisles
for milk and bread, the bruise now screaming blue
across her face. The other shoppers eye
us like suspicious fruit. I did not hit
my daughter. I most likely wouldn’t think
they think I had if my teeth were straighter,
my clothes not off the discount rack. Wheeling
my girl past canned goods, I remember the woman
in dark brown corduroy and brown floral blouse,
who followed the cart my mother pushed me in
through this same store to ask and ask
about my busted nose and swollen eye,
not taking the grownup’s word for it—
my sister had thrown a toy truck—
but directing the repeated question to me:
how did you get hurt, little boy?
My mother could be loud, as can I,
but never hit me. In the checkout line,
my daughter eyes the candy rack, touches
her face and then recoils, wincing.
The cashier keeps one eye on her. Will she
call DHS? I don’t know why I feel
guilty. I never hit my girl. I drop a bag
of little gummy fish in fruity colors
onto the running belt beside the clerk,
pull out my wallet, show that I can pay.

BENJAMIN MYERS is the 2015-2016 Poet Laureate of the State of Oklahoma and the author of two books of poetry: Lapse Americana (New York Quarterly Books, 2013) and Elegy for Trains(Village Books Press, 2010). His poems may be read in The Yale Review, 32 Poems, Ninth Letter, Image and other journals. He has been honored with an Oklahoma Book Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book and with a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His prose appears in World Literature Today, Books and Culture, This Land and other magazines. Myers teaches poetry writing and literature at Oklahoma Baptist University, where he is the Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature.