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.
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