Remember Johnny Kline?

by Gail Eisenhart

He lived on my street, bullied the pre-pubescent pack.
I don’t remember why he taunted me
but I remember the stick’s sting, running
home, expecting my father to tongue lash
the smirk from his seven-year-old face.

I can still see Dad’s lip curl, teeth clench.
Wordless, he walked to the door,
down the steps,
crossed the yard,
stopped at the apple tree,
snapped open his pocket knife.

With a death grip, he grabbed a green
branch, sliced it free, plopped it in my palm,
and said “Don’t come home
          until you teach Johnny Kline a lesson.

Like a metronome, the twig in my hand bounced,
kept time with my racing heart.
Tears and snot ran down my face as I made my way
up the street. Johnny saw me, started to laugh.
Blood flushed my cheeks. I bit my lip, starched my spine.
All forty-eight inches of me bristled.

One giant-step later we stood toe-to-toe.
I raised that switch, smacked Mr. Smarty-pants
square across his rump; lassoed him
with a steely stare and spit out,
Don’t you ever hit me again!”

Johnny’s face lumped like mashed potatoes.
Pivoting on my new confidence,
I turned toward home.


Gail Eisenhart’s poems have been published in Mid Rivers Review,Mid-America Poetry Review, Kaleidoscope, Front Range, MO: Writings from the River, Chickenpinata, Diverse Voices and most recently in Flood Stage: an Anthology of St. Louis Poets. Her review of poet David Wojahn’s Interrogation Palace was published inUniversity of Southern Indiana Review. A people-watcher who likes to travel, she is a retired Executive Assistant who works part time at the Belleville (IL) Public Library.