Prompt #1: An apology
I’m seventeen, a new student,
ardent for academia and
the prospect for new friendships,
and new adventures. I meet you
one morning, as I sit,
reading Dante’s Inferno
in the second row of the lecture hall.
You look at me with surprise.
What class is that for?
Oh, no, I reply, it’s just for fun.
You are impressed. You come to expect
me each morning, ten minutes before nine.
We smile, exchange niceties
and extract our notebooks, me from my backpack,
you from your briefcase
I like you, I think.
This is a good beginning.
I’m eighteen, and the magic is gone.
Hours at the library, at work,
have exhausted my mind and body both
and you have fallen down my list.
I stop in to say hello at least once
a week; not much is new, but I like
to see you. You ask me about my writing,
the concert I went to last week,
how my running
is going. I ask you about the paper
you had published, your upcoming trip to
Ottawa, your latest cycling route.
We chat in your office as students
rush past outside your door. I don’t have a care
in the world.
I pretend I don’t have homework due tomorrow;
I want to talk to you all afternoon.
I’m nineteen, and I don’t see you much
Our schedules misalign, our distances
increase from a 20-minute walk across
campus to a 500-mile international drive.
When you get back, we’ll catch up
on time we lost, what we’ve missed,
which, for me, is you, but I can’t
tell you that. I want you
to know how important you are,
how without you I might have
But I can’t. That’s weird, people tell me;
you can’t tell your professor you miss him.
People will misconstrue you, they say.
I email you once to say hello. You tell me
to stop in for a visit
when we’re both back in Michigan.
I never do.
I’m twenty, and I still think about you.
I want to write you, say hello,
but something always tells me
stop, don’t, it’s been too long.
I oscillate between
wanting to tell you everything, about the opportunities
and adventures I’ve had,
gushing over how lucky I am — I have to tell you this, Something
reminded me of you —
and censoring myself,
becoming businesslike —Great to hear from you,
Let me know
when you’re in town — anything to
lessen the awkwardness.
In the end, I say nothing. I pretend
I don’t care, and that you’ve
forgotten about me.
I hope you have; it would make everything
I’m twenty-three, and I’ve forgotten about you.
I’ve moved twice, back and forth from home,
and every time I think
I should tell you what’s going on in
my life, and ask you how you are.
But the thought fades, disappears
until next year.
Every now and then someone
talks of regrets: drinking too much alcohol, working too many hours,
all things academic.
You are mine.
Six years. You could have been there
the whole time; you could have been
my teacher, my mentor,