Betsy Sholl

July 26, 2018 Sholl Betsy



I was at the beach talking with someone else
when he twisted my arm till I heard a crack.

That was real.  But last night it was a dream:
I’m at my locker when he slams my shoulder hard.

Clatter of metal, secretary passing in spike heels
Strange that I remember this,

and how for revenge I wished him a used car lot
with gangsters shaking him down.

He wore chinos and loafers, button-down shirts,
the style of the day.  Skinny belts, buckle to the side.

His lips were so finely grooved it startled me
when we first kissed that spring behind the gym.

Was anyone else there the October night he said,
“Go steady with me again, or I’ll hurt you”?

So ridiculous, so long ago, even then I wasn’t tempted,
though for weeks I watched him work the crowd,

until in the cafeteria friends turned me away
and would not speak, turned their heads when I spoke.

English, Algebra, always someone groaned
when I entered a classroom.

He must have found a way out of Vietnam.
College?  Perhaps not four years.

He probably married his last high school girlfriend,
had children, and who knows?did sell cars.

Would he have outgrown the bully’s pleasures,
or just learned more subtle moves?

No doubt his death was from illness, not foul play.
But lingering or sudden, I have no clue.

News came by accident, a casual acquaintance.
So, after all these years–

Farewell my teenage nemesis, first lesson in shadows,
in my own darkness. For that I can thank you.

If we ever passed later on a street I didn’t notice.
Still, I confess disappointment, then a shiver

of something else, when I googled your name
and found nothing.

Betsy Sholl’s ninth collection is House of Sparrows: New & Selected Poems (University of Wisconsin, 2019).Her 10th collection, “As If a Song Could Save You,” will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press in fall of 2022. She teaches in the MFA Program of Vermont College of Fine Arts.