“Fabric” by Bruce Snider

What the lawyers didn’t say
was that neither of you
had a choice once you saw how small
he was, once you heard his narrow
shoulders speak to you about the frail
architecture of his rib cage,
about the delicate, finely scooped bowl
of his skull, about how in this life
there are so few chances
to dominate another man,
even a young man like this
who’d probably known a hundred bullies
like you, sporting their father’s
army jackets and crooked teeth.
And you knew that,
which is why you were there
that night drinking in a bar
in a place like any other place
where clouds move like shadows
and weakness is a badge
no man wears when he walks
out into the street. And so you never
had a choice. It was either
beat him and leave him by the field
or forget the fabric
of his shirt was as thin
as what separates you
from becoming him. It was either
beat him and leave him by the field
or take him in your arms
and lift him off that fence, take him
and ease him to the frozen earth, take him
and feel his skin against
your skin, your cheek
against his cheek, this young man
you’ve come to murder
in a field, take him, please
just take him in your arms.

from The Year We Studied Women
Copyright 2003 by University of Wisconsin Press

Author’s Note: “Fabric is addressed to Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who murdered Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in 1998.”


This week of Words is being hosted by poet Brian Dean Powers. We hope you enjoy his selections. Brian shares his poetry at The Body’s Heated Speech. I hope you will stop by to say hello. Thank you, Brian, for your support and for the beautiful Words. ~ Christy