Saturday, November 21, 2015


He sat in front of me
in third grade
and turned and stuck his tongue out.
His mom later told mine
he had a crush on me.
I did not like either of these things.

I didn't know why
he called me
when his dad called him
from the drunk tank--
unsure and hurting, preteen boy,
abandonment in his voice.

When bullies
carried him
into the bathroom
I saw his scared/brave smile
trying to laugh
at this brand of middle school hell, and walk out,
hair wet and freshly “swirlied.”

I ignored him all school year long
then let him kiss me on a dare
in summer.
I could have gotten out of it.
Never told him it was my first.
Started dating his cousin, the next day.

Walking across the field
from the annex
in high school,
I heard the sirens, saw the lights,
knew it was him, somehow.

Weeks later,
peering through
the screen door at dusk, he appeared
needing to talk.

The overdose
had made him sober, changed,
at least for a while.

His sad, teary eyes,
that lonesome ache in his voice,
and could he,
come over tomorrow?”

No,” I said.
And had to say it again.

I knew it, then,
when my dad asked,
what did he want?”
Though I shrugged and said I didn't know,
I said to myself, “a savior.”

And learned
for the first time
that sometimes
you have to say no
as much for someone else
as for yourself.

© 2015 Jennifer Wagner


Fireblossom said...

This is immediate, so well-observed, heart wrenching, and true. This poem impresses me immensely.

Tank said...

What a gut wrenching write - amazing work!

Margaret said...

This poem takes my heart on a journey of emotions I've experienced in slightly different ways. I can't tell you how much I like this poem.

janetld said...

Such an authentic, honest poem. Yes, heart-wrenching. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Wendy Bourke said...

This is epically beautiful, Jennifer. So poignant and moving ... the ache of regret - that we cannot save everyone - still tender and raw after the passage of so many years. One of my fav's of yours. An important piece.

Jody Lee Collins said...

Jennifer, your most powerful lines are always at the end. These made me inhale with, 'oh my gosh.' So moving. Good job!

Ella said...

Wow, Jennifer~ This really tugs on my heart strings-but sometimes we can't fill someone needs. The pain is in knowing this~ So, much pain-in sadness and fear! Well written~

brudberg said...

This poem is so raw with all those emotions of things that could have been.. and sometimes saviors sink...the closing is perfect

grapeling said...

etched - no, carved - deeply ~