18 November, 2020

A Poem


Her name wasn't Dorito, but that's what I'll call her here
to preserve some semblance of childhood innocence.
She was in my gym class, Dorito was, and smelled
so nice to my eleven-year-old olfactory system.
Hyacinths and coffee beans, roasted dark, like
I eventually came to love. And back then I loved
watching Dorito's long blond braid
sway with each of her metered footfalls as we circled
the track. It was incentive enough for my frail
young self to stay close behind and catch her
scent after every few breaths gulped. Was it her
shampoo? Her mother's perfume? A rare disease
that altered her body chemistry in such a tantalizing way?

Pathetic Tantalus was condemned to spend forever up to his chin
in water, beneath delicious fruit hanging just beyond
his reach. The children of Zeus rarely
fared particularly well. And I, pasty, frail,
increasingly uncertain boy, never
caught up to Dorito. I resigned myself
to run along behind and hope
that she might slip, defying Newtonian physics
by falling backward into my arms, and that I
would somehow manage not to drop her.

* * * * *

"Crush" came in response to a conversation about the girl with whom I was naively smitten in sixth grade. How her memory arose, after thirty-one years, baffles me. Memory's strange mix of potency and frailty is ceaselessly astounding. For instance, I remember the black-and-white polkadot bow "Dorito" left behind on the bleachers one afternoon (which I took home, slept with, and sheepishly returned the next day), but not where I learned to ride a bike, nor what my father's voice sounded like.

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