Getting Even by Leah Mueller


Nine years old, a girl
different from the others,
too thoughtful, always reading
and using words no one understood,

I was chased home
from school every day
by a jeering boy named Sean,
who would beat me in front
of the other children.

The kids cheered and laughed
with their faces in a circle around us.
When I fell to the ground in tears,
one of them would always scream,

“Hit her again, Sean.
Teach her a lesson.”

Sean would say,

“Nah, I’ve hit her enough today.
Time to go home.”

Calls to the principal and my teacher
and Sean’s parents were fruitless.
All of them said,

‘They’re children,
let them fight their own battles”

or “Kids are just cruel.
They’ll grow out of it if you ignore them.”

It’s hard to ignore a fist in your stomach,
so, one weekend my parents
made a punching bag out of pillows
and told me to practice hitting it
with a large textbook,

and I heaved that heavy volume
with a force that seemed to come
from somewhere else,
and not from inside of me:

except it came from the deepest place,
the part that had never
been able to defend itself.

My stepfather promised me
a hot fudge sundae
if I could make Sean cry,
and I hoped that Sean
would never stop crying
for the rest of his miserable life.

On Monday, I crept to his desk
in the middle of an arithmetic lecture,
pulled him backward
by his greasy blond hair,
and hit him in the face
as hard as I could
with my math book.

I never liked math anyway,
so it was a double victory
when Sean collapsed weeping
onto the linoleum floor,
his broken nose gushing blood.

The teacher led me
to the principal’s office
and I served two hours
of after-school detention

but they told me the punishment
was for my own safety,
and they didn’t blame me a bit.

Sean waited for me
behind the school, his face
wrapped in an enormous bandage
but none of his friends were nearby,
and I could run much faster than him.

Afterward, he never
bothered me again,
so I tried to cash in
on my hot fudge sundae–
but my stepfather was an asshole too
and never made good on his promise.

I guess the moral is that
the strong prey on the weak
until the weak rise up and claim
what is rightfully theirs,
or something of that nature,

but the truth is that most of us
are standing around taking beatings
without complaining, because
no one ever taught us
how to defend ourselves.

Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of two chapbooks and four books. Her latest book, a memoir entitled “Bastard of a Poet” was published by Alien Buddha Press in June, 2018. Leah’s work appears or is forthcoming in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Outlook Springs, Crack the Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and other publications. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp humor poetry contest.

6 Replies to “Getting Even by Leah Mueller”

  1. I’m not sure “like” is the right response … I want to say “Wow!” … and “Oh my!” … and “Grrrrrr!” … I certainly was engaged while reading this … I’m speechless … but I’m typing this response …

    I want to add that I now have two of your publications … *Bastard of a Poet* (my bookmark in this one is around page 40 … it is one of several books I’m reading right now (a bad habit of mine) … I want to read *Beach Dweller Manifesto” at a bar somewhere … just saying …

    May I say “Huge hugs!”? DaP

  2. yes….you have to learn to stand up even if it means getting knocked down….i think its harder for women….as men are hardwired for violence….thanks

  3. hello Lady Mueller. such a pleasure seeing your poetry on this wonderful online outlet for some hard hitting poets who don’t fuck around. marvelous piece, Leah. and what a weapon of choice, a book no less.

    really dig this brave and bold share. reminds me why i read you my friend.

    fistbumps, finger snaps and all that groovy jazz.

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