After the shackles are on,
everything goes quiet
and he begins to sob.

Pick up the cast down dresser.
Kick the torn t-shirts into the hallway.
Inspect the fist holes in the sheetrock,
try to remember which are old
and which are fresh.

Inhale his unwashed body.

This is the way violence smells:
adrenaline and sweat and piss,
a fruit of exhaustion left too ripe.
It smells like muscles tremble,
like carpet burn on a cheekbone,
like tomorrow’s bruise and ache.
You will never forget this smell.

A year from now,
it will wake you in the middle of the night,
a hot burn in your nostrils
with the memory of a punching fist
and your name shaped into a scream.
Your wife will ask if you are okay.
You will roll over and pretend to fall asleep
without hearing her.

The officer speaks static to her radio,
white scramble and fuzz,
she has to repeat herself
before you realize she is asking you
What do you want to do?
Hey, hey, what do you want us to do?

There is no answer.

Every person in the room knows
there are no solutions here,
no cure-all snake oil,
no jail cell or group therapy
or medication cocktail
that will make it better
and introduce this soul
born with his powderkeg brain
to quiet thought and serenity.

Stroke the sweat in his hair
and tell him you love him.
He cries into your hand,
says I’m a good man,
I’m a good man,
I’m a good man,
I don’t know why
I want to hurt you all.

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