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Wk kortas Mar 2017
We’d known each other forever, or all the time that counted, anyways,
Sitting side-by-side on the bus from kindergarten
Until you and your mom moved up to Fifth Street,
At the cafeteria table, on the swings at rec
(Despite the considerable risk of contracting girl cooties)
And always but always on the gym bleachers for movie day,
Which, on the day in question, was "Paddle To The Sea",
And as I sat and watched the small, hand painted wooden craft
Improbably navigate the great blue ribbon
Bisecting the land of apple pie and Chevrolet
All the way to the Gulf of Mexico and into the great, blue ocean
It was as nothing else--that gym, the other kids
The comforting clack of the ancient eight-millimeter projector,
And, for that forty-odd minutes, even you--did not, could not exist.
As the lights came up, I looked over in your direction
Noticing the remnants of tears on your cheeks.
Hey, it’s OK to cry, I said
(Girls allowed such luxuries, after all)
But you whirled around at glared at me
(Even at that early age, stunned at the depth and breadth
Of my misunderstanding, my utter stupidity)
And said in a tone which neither sought nor brooked argument
That just can’t happen. No toy boat ever makes it to the ocean,
And for any number of days afterward
You would, apropos of nothing, angrily blurt out
How stupid, stupid, stupid that movie was,
And how you hoped they would cancel movie day from now on.

We had, nature taking its course and all that
(As I used to say to you at the time,
It’s not my fault you ended up with ****)
Our dalliance in that murky interval beyond friendship,
Fumbling about your bedroom
On those afternoons in-between sport seasons
Or on the old Friday night in the back of the balcony
At the old Rialto Theatre
(In its final death throes at the time, deserted enough most nights
I could have taken you right in the front row wholly unnoticed)
Though always within limits,
As you had no designs on becoming
Some drop-out baby mama patiently home-bound,
Spending mornings sweeping the detritus of the mill
From some weathered, crumbling front stoop
While waiting for me to come home from a spot on the line
As we lived happily hand-to-mouth ever after.

It could not, of course, have lasted.
The fall came where you headed off to Cornell,
An unlikely landing spot for a mill-town girl;
We sort of stayed in touch for a couple of months,
But come the tail-end of your second semester
You simply disappeared without a trace.
The sheriff’s boys up there had assumed you’d jumped
Into one of the scenic gorges
Which were the pride and joy of the town’s Chamber of Commerce.  
(I’d laughed in spite of myself, the notion that you would end up
In some pool below a waterfall or some shallows of an inlet
Almost too cosmically comic to fathom)
Though there was a rumor that someone fitting your description
Had dove into the Seneca Canal
(But clad in a bathing suit,
Like someone enjoying a brief, early-season swim)
And for the briefest of moments I had a vision of you swimming
Up to Clinton’s Ditch to where it met with the Oswego Canal
And the big lake, going up the frosty St. Lawrence
And thence to the very Atlantic itself,
But I knew that was a fancy, indeed an outright madness
Inconceivable in the small-town cosmology
Of a young girl intimate in the true nature of toys and oceans.

— The End —