You don’t have to be gentle
You don’t owe it to the boot that stomps your face to smile
through broken teeth.
You don’t have to prove yourself again and again
worthy of the praise of those who aim
to crush your larynx closed; you don’t
stanch your rage to be accepted in
Manners are for tea time
and waiting in line for the sink.
You don’t have to look away avert your eyes pretend that you don’t see
Just because you can
Just because you get to.
You don’t have to be the one to plug the flowers into
the mouths of the guns while the bullets fly
and the bodies fly
and the flags fly
and the buzzards fly and wait
to pluck your eyes out
as they melt into the ground.
You don’t have to be gentle, but you are
because it’s counter what they’re doing
and so you’re not like them, but understand
You are the teeth
Or you’re the boot
Or you’re the laces
tied up tight.