Free Period

David Yezzi

Outside study hall,
it’s me, my girlfriend, and a guy
named Rob—bony kid, klutzy
at games, fluent in French.
He’s behind her;

I’m asleep or half-
asleep (it’s morning), and, as I
squint into the trapezoid of light
breaking on the bench and me,
I see him raise

his hand to her head
from the back, so gently
she doesn’t notice
him at first, but stands there,
carved in ebony

and beaten gold:
Stacey’s straight black hair
falling in shafts of sun.
He smoothes it down,
firmly now,

so that she turns,
kind of freaked, as if to say,
“Can you believe it?”
to me still coming to.
Yes, I guess I can,

I think to myself,
with only a twinge
of jealousy, with admiration,
actually. And pity—since he’d seen
beauty raw,

for which humiliation
was the smallest price,
and, dazzled, grasped at it,
not getting hold.
It wasn’t his, god knows,

or mine, as I,
months later, learned
hopelessly—almost fatally,
it felt—or even hers, though it was
of her and around her,

in that freeze-frame
of low sunshine,
with us irremediably young
and strung-out from love
and lack of love.


David Yezzi’s latest books of poetry are Birds of the Air and Black Sea (both in the Carnegie Mellon Poets Series). He teaches in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins and edits The Hopkins Review.

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