The Worst of It

The worst of it happened while down the hall

someone else played with toy trains. The man who said

that you were nothing doesn’t remember at all


or doesn’t seem to. The smell of alcohol

still takes you back to youth, recalls the dead

of night when the worst happened. Down the hall


memory was weaving a gentler tale,

a tale, years later, your mom would tell instead

of one in which you were nothing at all.


You leave. You move to Arkansas. You call

when you’re supposed to; everything goes unsaid.

Did the worst really happen down that hall?


What if you’ve made your trauma ritual,

obsessing over the same poem? Your head

aches with remembering. Nothing at all


proves your story. You made him break the wall,

they say, you’re shit. Be stone to dull the dread.

You know the worst happened, but down the hall

it was nothing no one remembers at all.

Josh Luckenbach’s recent work appears or is forthcoming in the Southern Review, Nimrod, Birmingham Poetry Review, New Ohio Review, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. He received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arkansas and a BA from the University of Virginia. He lives in West Texas where, in addition to pursuing his PhD, he serves as managing editor for Iron Horse Literary Review.