The Runt by Mark Tulin

Also appears in Virtual Library.

When I was a selfish little runt,

it was all about me.

It didn’t matter who I insulted,

what person I bothered.

Because I denied the fact

that I could make people cry.

I denied that I could do

an innocent person harm.

Now looking back,

those hurtful memories

return to me

like a smack in the face,

a boot in the ass.

It is my turn to feel the pain

from a selfish little runt

whose words burn in time.


Poem: Composition Book

My mother threw out my poetry
when I was fifteen,
just like that,
no apologies

She made sure
that the trash truck
ground-up all my emotions
in all those lined pages
of a marble composition notebook.

She wanted to prevent me
from writing down
all my romantic notions
and teenage secrets.

She believed nothing good
could come of telling the truth,
and that expressing pain
and vulnerability
were dangerous.

It’s better to contain
misery and disdain
in private, she said.
Then you won’t get hurt.

That was when I lived at home,
now I don’t have to suppress
what I feel anymore
or be so overly protected.

I’m free to fill up as many
marble bound notebooks
with poems of blood and tears
without being taken
from a mother in fear.


Teenagers of the Damned

Another version of this poem at Mark Tulin on Letterpile.


Buttered popcorn, milk chocolate Goobers

and launching fresh spitballs,

 wads of wet toilet paper 

sliding down the silver screen

as confused and dazed ushers 

chase children misbehaving.

We clap, hoot and holler

for the possessed little blond-haired boys,  

flashing their strobe-light eyes, 

ice-cold water in their veins, 

infiltrating a celluloid English town.

 They rise from the grave of affluent families,

 putting their mommies to sleep,

melting their poor daddies

into pools of Silly Putty.

I wished that I had their power 

to reduce adults to pint size humans,

to make teachers, neighbors, and bullies 

feel the wrath of a teenage boy.

Casting the last Pixie Stick onto my tongue,

I suck feverishly on a caramel Sugar Daddy

with a handful of red licorice in my hands,

I finally feel content in my sugar high.

It was just another Saturday matinee

flipping our friends and enemies the bird,

teasing the girls in the front row.

Next week another horror film:

the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Poem: Graduation

At your graduation,
I clapped
when your name
was called.
I remembered
how proud I was to
receive that rolled-up
diploma written in Gothic font.

I collected
a family of sheepskins,
thought it would bring happiness,
all it got me were
luxury cars,
tacky designer clothes
and a bigger and bigger house
to store all my vanity in.

It was all a vicious delusion,
society’s definition of success,
a hamster’s spinning wheel.

I was tired of the endless grind,
the need to impress, to sell myself,
so I stopped appeasing it.

I began a journey of humility
and simplified my life.
I re-evaluated adulthood
and where I wanted to go.
I found it without searching,
without the need to acquire more.


Poem: Freedom

is it the only path

to walk

and see what

you see,

burdened by your


and judgments


or could I venture

on my own,

even if it is a lonely


or if I read the wrong


and meet


the wrong people,

lost souls who don’t

bare the cross or

the star or the hammer

and sickle or the crescent



perhaps I’ll find my way,

a misguided dreamer

taking a road of less shame,

feet and hands unbound,

a journey without all those

harsh rules.



Poem: Sleepytime

No dreams
No restless legs
No Jiminy Cricket chattering
in my ear to keep me awake.

Just a deep sleep
with a train of Zzzz’s
that seemed to serpentine
above me
into the celestial night.

A pleasant, restful slumber
as if a fairy godmother had tucked me in.
As if she read my favorite story
in her soothing, sleepytime voice.

Nighty-night, my little son,
the fairy with fluttering wings said,
as she waved her magic wand
that glittered over my somnolent head.