Free Period

By 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.

Originally appeared in NOR 5

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