Paintball Loser

Whatever age he was, he looked too small
for it, but I figured age of ten.
A paintball gun swung limply from his hand
as he trudged down the street. His hair and face
were soaked with lurid colors----I thought, man,
they must have ganged up big-time on this kid,

his so-called "friends," no doubt. Were they just kidding
around at first, they told themselves, these smaller
versions of the swine they'd be as men
someday? And I wondered, has this happened often?
How many times had he had to face
some double-cross, then watched those jerks' glad-handing

and high-fives? Does he rise from sleep with hands
balled up in fists and swinging at those kids,
bloodying their stupid laughing faces
in his dreams, for making him feel small
and weak? It's tough----a boy, by the age of ten
is too old to cry, too young for any woman

but his mother. Does he know that women
hold our entire world in their hands,
they carry the sky upon their backs, too often
feeling burdened as any bullied kid?
I hoped his mom could comfort him, in small
sweet ways, at least: make lunch or wash his face,

anything to give him courage facing
one more day. So many boys, and men,
without this courage, can turn into small
and petty tyrants, who never raise their hands
except at home, against their wives, or kids----
my God, you'd have to have a heart of tin

to feel no pity. I think of that boy often,
hoping he will see some lovely face
each day he lives, someone who'll say, "Don't kid
yourself, it isn't easy, being a man,
and in this world, life will never hand
you much;" who'll make him more than just some small,

picked-on, defeated kid with paint-smeared face,
who'll give his hands and heart the strength of ten----
this small boy, waiting to become a man.

Michael Battram is a self-taught poet, and a lifelong resident of Southern Indiana. He has published over 100 poems over the years in a wide variety of styles, in publications including Abbey, The Formalist, Free Lunch, Lilliput Review, Wormwood Review, and many others.

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