Maybe lightning struck
and that was the first fire they saw,
a curse, a gift, a gift
from the gods
that had them running
cro-magnon amok,
maybe an electrical storm
came demented upon the beach
and lashed the sand,
those billions of tiny rocks into glass,
fusing silica to fulgurite,
petrified lightning,
for them to find
in generations
when they returned,
wearing bikinis
and sunscreen.

The incident happened
as it always does;
somebody said something
that nobody remembers
in a bar no-one intended to be in.
Words were exchanged uncordially,
a back was turned,
a slight enacted,
a blood feud that would last
for ten generations.

Was there a time
it could be settled with some élan?
A white silk glove
struck firmly across the face
and a duel arranged for dawn
at a place of your choosing,
bring your seconds, your flintlock
and a Melchior of brandy.

Instead I sized the stranger up
and shrugged, mule-dumb and vain,
and hands-full, smirked
until the smirk was removed, unwound when
he tried to cleave my head off with his glass
and you wonder what the odds are
that it did not shatter,
that the momentum was enough
to bruise an arc along the windpipe
but not enough to slice,
that it clamped the breath and speech
and nothing more.
It happens in the heat-daze of adrenaline
and you do not notice him
evaporate into the crowd,
too busy gills gulping for air,
too busy tumbling with his hyena friend
onto a splintering table of drinks,
too busy swinging blindly
into anyone, friend or foe,
within the cardinal points,
too busy being hoisted through puppetry
to the alleyway by two bouncers
who kindly dislocate
your hand on the way out,
then trying to explain your innocence
through sign language,
half-intrigued to see your fingers
bend the wrong way.
Three hours in A&E
for your troubles.
Your ego holed below the waterline.

I found out later
when the swelling
and wounded pride
had subsided
and the curses returned,
that my adversary was training
to become a doctor
and I thought
that old bastard God
has a sense of humour
after all.

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