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  • Jimmy Broccoli

He Was What We Knew Then as Retarded

He lived one street over – his name was Edward…

He was what we knew then as “retarded.”


[my eyes drip liquid regret and shame as I write this]


He walked differently than we walked…

He talked much differently than we talked…

He became easily angry, while we were stoically calm…

He hated us – and not one of us cared –

none of us cared at all…

about next to anything, really – we just didn’t care


Edward was in my class at school and 3 years older than me…

He painted and drew pictures of animals,

While we studied math, beginning biology, and learned how to make a cigar box in woodshop…


Integration meant fistfights on the playground Edward couldn’t win –

it meant a group of boys against a single boy –

Edward scared (no - terrified) and alone…

and forced – forced to deal with Tom and William, and Michael…

[I stood nearby doing nothing – smoking a cigarette, with my marker-drawn anarchist jeans and with my punk attitude– I stood nearby…doing nothing]


William pushed Edward down onto the schoolyard grass – and he pushed him hard…

Humiliated – with no chance of things becoming different –

with no chance of things getting better -

and with pants permanently stained…

everyone laughed (I didn’t laugh) as I looked on and then looked away

I then looked away…we all did…


“Boys will be boys” is absolute motherfucking shit –

it’s fucking bullshit –

it lessens the intensity and impact of bullying…

– it gives a pass to the wicked –

“Boys will be boys” is absolute motherfucking shit…

it’s shit and it’s nothing better than it


I remember Edward arriving to class one day with a tube that extended from one of his nostrils into his shirt –

but I’m not sure if this is a real memory or not


…On his way home one day, Edward was stopped by a boy…

(the wind whipped violently through the trees, and the trees bowed to its force)


Edward was stopped by a boy…

(the birds squawked, and they squawked loudly – Attention! Attention! - and nobody was listening)


Edward was stopped by a boy…

(a beautiful boy laid twisted and disheveled upon the unforgiving ground, a beautiful boy laid still and will lie still forever)


The aroma of flowers filled the air for several blocks in all directions – for days…


His name was Edward –

He was what we knew then as retarded…

he lived one street over from me –

a universe away – and I was 14 houses down


His name was Edward

we all could have helped him – we all could have stopped the abuse –

the terror, the bullying, the shoulder punches for flinching (or for not flinching), the mocking and the never-ending teasing, and the fear that boys instilled within him every day – every single day – every fucking day –

but we didn’t


we all could have done something – anything…


but we didn’t – we fucking didn’t –

we could have, but we fucking didn’t –

and I’m not asking for forgiveness or understanding –

I’m not asking for that at all –

That is not what I’m doing here…

I’m not asking for forgiveness…


Because none of us deserve it


None of us do

None of us motherfucking do


Photo: Jimmy Broccoli.


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