“At last, we snap to the pain, the need to be felt …”

Enjoy this poem as a broadside by dragging the image to your desktop — or scroll down to read as plain text. It is available, in slightly different format, on Medium.

The Beauty in Violence

for James

One day, driving my son to school:

Hey, Papa, look at this.

I can’t, I say. I’m driving.

Just look, he says. It’s pretty.

I glance over, a comic book

splayed out on his lap. A two-page

spread of blasters and lasers

in a lush galactic forest,

Wookies and Stormtroopers

and Jedi akimbo, blood

splattering. Buildings destroyed.

Lives ended. What do you

find beautiful about this?

The way his blue eyes flash

slate gray like approaching

storm clouds after he slaps his

sister full-handed across

her face, me stepping to him

with my own eyes flashing

fire and hatred, thunder and fury,

drawing back my arm,

stopping in disgust.

The passion we lack. The ignoring,

the quiet indifference, until,

at last, we snap to the pain, the need

to be felt, to be heard, when the sound

of skin on skin makes us feel alive.


Stuart Gunter’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gravel, Deep South, Into the Void, Streetlight, and The Madison Review, among others. Two of his earlier works were published online in Broad Street.