The Girl I Knew Once by John Gery

                                            did life-light decline from her years
                           And mischances control
Her full day-star?

                           — Thomas Hardy

That she wouldn’t greet the young man,
drunk as he was and aching to take her
somewhere, anywhere, that she closed
not only her doors and windows, suffocating
herself like hardtack packed in a tin can,
but also her prospects, he being older,
though clearly drunk, peering in at her, inside

at her, who threw back her hair to see
and be seen, that they scratched at each
other, who knew then new news about
themselves, who could do such scratching,
that the law saw them, or at least has seen
the likes of them before, that what humiliates both
invigorates each, vindicates one (but which

one?), and eradicates whatever they’ve had,
placating neither — just the way war, this
war, that makes the warrior also breaks
him, or her, that I recall with what wrath
I argued with her, practically a stranger
but whose thick hair, bare thigh, and smile
had drawn me up those back stairs, this

girl for whom I still care, not out there
but in here, that she mentioned me then
by name to our mutual friend, especially
when we haven’t spoken in twenty-five years,
that I would rather not see her now, retired
from the battle front, unlikely even to glare
at me, but would prefer to stash that passion

than declare it dead — all this I read
into our friend’s offhand remark, pleased
by what I imagined of me pleasing her,
eased by not having to find out, doubt
receding, finally, replaced by a lingering lust
I must, I know, someday live without
(though I won’t ever know how or when).

About John Gery

John’s latest book of poetry, Have At You Now! from WordTech Communications, was reviewed here on Burlesque Press by Daniel Wallace.  Have At You Now! is available for purchase here.