Violence by Jeff Nazzaro

In the ’70s on Main Street
in my little Massachusetts town,
black spray paint on two small
signs—one for the Rotary Club,
one for the speed limit, 45—the
first said “Stop the Draft,” but
by the second the graffitist/protester
had upped the ante to “Fuck the Draft.”

My mother drove to Stadium Pizza,
just over the line in Lowell, then,
coming out with the cardboard boxes,
two young men—my mother called them kids—
spitting F-bombs in each other’s long-haired faces
in the parking lot. My mother hustled
me into the station wagon as they went,
gunning the Chevy’s V8 like the fight
would engulf us all. It did me.

What struck me, watching the narrowing
scene out the rear window, was how
unlike any TV fight I’d seen it was—
flailing fists to the face, thrusting knee
to the ribs, hair everywhere—the mutual
violence, the abject lack of control.
“Don’t look, they’re nuts,” my mother said,
and catching the light sped us for green grass
suburban home.

“What’s stop the draft mean?” I asked her
that day, afraid to use the other word. She
wouldn’t say. She just tsked her tongue
off the roof of her mouth and said,
“Probably the same kid who wrote
‘Eff the draft’ back there.”

She never said the F-word itself then,
either, my mother, so later, when she did,
gratuitously or in anger, it stained
like violence, it hurt like war.

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