Sunday, July 29, 2018

Chest Wounds by Jack Powers

I wasn't horny enough for my eighth grade girlfriend.
She was older and fed me shots of vodka to get me in the mood.
I didn't like being rushed. She didn't like waiting.

I just threw up and passed out and sometimes
woke up drunk the next day. My mother was worried
about me seeing a ninth grader – pestering my brother,

complete strangers, even my knee doctor
to talk some sense into me. "Tell him he's too young," she'd say.
The doctor mumbled, "Listen to your mother," shrugged

and said something about leg lifts. I was tired of the spin-
the-bottle, over-the-bra-feel girlfriends my own age.
I was skinny, but tall and looked older than I was.

She was thrilling and scary and sometimes I hated her.
Maybe I was afraid I’d disappear. So I dug in
countering unstoppable with immovable.

But when we went to her house one Tuesday afternoon
and found her mother passed out in vomit on the living room rug,
we cleaned her up and carried her to her bed.

I wanted somehow to close that wound
as we made out in her room and began to work our way around
the bases. Maybe she thought I could pin her down

and blast her into a new life. On the bus one day,
she found a poem I wrote in English class and read it aloud.
It was about birds or fish or communism and I just wrote it

to get Mr. Zaboray to leave me alone. Her friends shrieked with laughter.
The next day at lunch I didn't sit at our table, returning instead
to my eighth grade friends. She came over, scrunched her lips.

"I don't know what you're trying to prove –" she said,
but I interrupted her. "I need to break up," I said.
She turned and walked away. "I'm sorry," I whispered,

but she wasn't listening. Her dark figure blurred, disappearing
into the shrill yellow light of the lunch room windows.

Jack Powers’ poems have appeared in The Southern Review, The Cortland Review, Rattle, Poet Lore and elsewhere. His first book, Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar, will be coming out in the fall. He won the 2015 and 2012 Connecticut River Review Poetry Contests and was a finalist for the 2013 and 2014 Rattle Poetry Prizes. He teaches in Redding, Connecticut. Visit his website:

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