I knew a boy named Shaun whose
mother loved successive men
that charmed and tortured her.
One day in ninth grade Shaun brought
a luminous hunting knife to lunch
and put it near the throat of the dean,
who had always seemed the wryest, most
unmovable force as he supervised
and distrusted us for no other reason
than the fact that we were darker
and more angelic than he.
Shaun, breaking a bit of skin
on the side of the dean’s neck,
soon got choked by the officer
assigned the daily patrol
of our hectic, first-floor halls.
Institutions later absorbed Shaun,
and I wrote him some letters
each year, letters of update
about certain classmates and kin,
letters in which it felt impossible
to plant much truth or redemption,
my hand and pen pausing abundantly,
the blank paper like a mute field
I wandered, and somewhere beyond,
upon a hill that rose above roads
and foliage, my friend lived
like a young monk made to study decades
in some state-funded monastery
built in praise of the godlessness of pain.