For C. M.
We talked of you on Facebook
when someone posted a photo of our 5th grade class
and we laughed at seventies clothing
and tried to list the names in the three rows
between Mrs. Evans and our principle, Mr. Kelton.
It was your name that wasn’t forgotten,
your broad face that even in a smile seemed distant,
troubled—and we imagined at the time,
devising some new torment with which to impale us
at recess or in the lunch line
or in any of those dirty corners bullies knew well
and teachers seemed to know to avoid.
Someone said you made that year
the worst year of their life
and whenever they thought of suffering
from that point on, it was your face, your name
that crept unbidden as the cause.
And someone said life changed for the better
the moment 5th grade was over
and they had a summer without fear of your fists,
your words—three whole months
before the dread of 6th grade, the anguish
of seeing your name again in the class list.
Back then it was hard to think of anyone’s pain
except our own, to wonder what life was like
for anyone else, when the universal struggle
smacked so hard the gut of our existence,
and it was hard to forgive even the memory
of you making it harder.
And then someone said it—
what we had forgotten in the midst
of our own frailties and misdemeanors—
He must have been very unhappy—
and we could only swallow silently
behind our computer screens.
Sandy Coomer is a poet, mixed media artist, and endurance athlete. Her poetry has most recently been published in Apeiron Review, Red River Review, and Pilcrow & Dagger. Her poetry chapbook, Continuum, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Her second collection, The Presence of Absence, won the 2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry. She lives in Brentwood, TN, where she regularly trains for and races in triathlons.