You were the archer who missed the mark,
the cyclist who lost his way in mist,
the runner fleeing his shadow.
When you fumbled your lines in school
Mr Brass snapped: ’Can’t you read, fool?’ Under
the ruck you curled up; studs trampled over you.
Rigid on the garden seat or clamped down for dinner
hands never touched. The gods just nattered
on high or ate in silence. You ached for praise.
How early were you broken? Whose careless hand
one sunny morning shattered your glassy brain?
Those yells still echo, splinters pierce your skin.
Your heart or your nerves was the weak spot
the strong unerringly found. Each arrow hit home
till you, the simple and blameless, were cut right through.
Bullies sniff their victim’s scent. They marked you out
for sacrifice, smirking, laughing, dragging you
to the pyre where you shot back arrows from the flames,
taking a few bastards with you before your skin
charred, before you fell at the feet of a wise stone god
who once a week soothes and listens but cannot heal.