Restraining Disorder Paul McLaughlin

Arms 
the colour of kicked irises
Eyes 
that finally opened
when he punched them shut
Fist-split lips that echo the scream
Don't you ever say anything
–signs of disorder
in a place of law
      and order

You want to help
Trust me, you say
We'll go to court–
though you know
a restraining order restrains a man with killer eyes
the way a cobweb restrains a boulder
bouncing down a mountainside

You reach out–
she shelters behind
a featureless terracotta mask
glazed in silence
with dried-blood accents
and marble eyes that dam her tears

You say to yourself
You're a lawyer. Be
professional. You mustn't
touch. You mustn't
be touched

but sometimes all you can do
when a mask shatters
is lay a safe hand
    carefully
on a sobbing shoulder

August 2001

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