He called it a banana knife, and in fact
it had a long handle made of yellow pearl.
Maybe it was plastic, with wavering panes of clarity
that made it look like pearl. When he swung the blade out—
a narrow length of polished steel—
I thought a knife like that might cut through flesh
and never leave a mark, or even hurt.
So when he flicked it out to snick my arm,
I felt it brush my shirt, as though he only meant
to play a joke. I had to roll my sleeve
to watch a thread of blood outline the slit it made.
Then I noticed how the cloth was cut.
He grinned so that I’d understand
this is what he wanted: my gathering shock,
a flux of blood, however small, from the dead center of my heart.
Kurt Brown is founding director of the Aspen Writers’ Conference, now in its thirtieth year, and of Writers’ Conferences & Centers, a national association of directors now in its sixteenth year. His poems have appeared in many literary periodicals. He is the editor of several anthologies of poetry and critical prose, including the forthcoming Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets, 2007), co-edited with Harold Schechter. His poetry collections are Return of the Prodigals (Four Way Books, 1999), More Things in Heaven and Earth (Four Way Books, 2002), Fables from the Ark (WordTech, 2003), which won the Custom Words Prize, and Future Ship (Story Line Press, forthcoming in 2006). (updated 4/2006)