Mea Culpa by Mark Mayes

As his forehead met my nose,
causing it to explode
into a cascade of blood and snot,
I wondered what his childhood had been like,
and the precise nature of his family’s dysfunction.

As his size-ten DM’s crunched into my bollocks
at an equally disconcerting speed,
I bemoaned his lack of life chances,
and the undiagnosed dyslexia,
which had so sorely troubled him.

When, having whipped out his Stanley,
he proceeded to inscribe a map
of the Scilly Isles – on my neck,
I blamed the NHS for not proactively
offering him counselling
at a more formative age.

Finally, as he stamped rhythmically on my spine,
chanting ‘Bastard’ all the while,
it dawned on me
that he was the real victim here,
and I had no right to complain,
if anything, I was to blame,
for in me he saw the cause,
the cause of all his pain.

My Home Counties’ vowel sounds
had put him out of joint;
plus the unpardonable act
of spilling his pint.

(originally published in The Interpreter’s House)

Mark Mayes has published poems in various magazines, including: The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat & Tears, Staple, The Reader, The Shop, and Fire, and has had work broadcast on BBC Radio. He has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.


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