With me you were different.  Even as you told me
how your father’s fist felt against your face
you spoke in words soft as sighs
almost as if         you told the story
of another boy         one who was not you
and did not wear your bruises.
At school, you bumped         you pushed against the rules
and wore the label         kid who doesn’t try
he’ll never amount to much so why bother to teach him?
That was when         paddling was allowed.
The bad kids stood         in the hallway
waiting for the vice principal to deliver licks
and you took yours         almost daily and came back
to class unrepentant   motionless as a soldier.
Your eyes would find mine.
In our quiet moments I’d ask you if it hurt
and you’d say yes        then not much
then not really         then talk of shop class
and calling me that night.
In the dark         between the lines
of our telephones         you’d tell me your secrets
as if I was         the only person you could trust.
For an hour or two        it would be safe enough
to be simple        before the booze and drugs
before the fights and lies         closed you again.
In spring, during finals
I watched your shoulders as you sat in the seat
in front of me        and wondered how long
you could hold the darkness you carried.
I wanted to give us both         the answers we needed.
School ended.
In the summer        you slipped like a shadow
into night         while I turned
toward other things         and didn’t see you go.
If you asked me then     if I missed you
I would say yes         then not much
then not really.
Life fractured us.         We folded our bodies
into origami boxes.         We split from ourselves
from each other         like broken mirrors.
If you ask me now         if I remember
I would say         all of it.
Sandy Coomer is a poet and mixed media artist. She is also an Ironman Gold All World Athlete, ranked in the top 1% of her age group in the Half Ironman distance. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Continuum (Finishing Line Press), The Presence of Absence (Winner of the 2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry), and the forthcoming Rivers Within Us (Unsolicited Press). Sandy is a poetry mentor in the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program and the founding editor of the new online poetry journal Rockvale Review. She lives in Brentwood, TN. www.sandycoomer.com

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