Sixteen and Twenty One – A Poem

Sixteen and Twenty One

She was sixteen and we
were twenty one
when I told her how I was going to
write about butterflies
(though I never did)
and she said “That’s nice”
while her eyes flirted with you.

“Where have all the kids gone?” you asked

and she answered
“Down to the park for football.
Or inside.”

I struck a match on the sidewalk
watched it burn low.
Big Red was outside.
Carol told me as we sat on the couch
years later
and just finished watching
In the Mood for Love
that he was called that
because of his truck.
A large Ford.
Cherry colored and offensive.
Like him, really,
with that burning bright face he had.
“I never spoke with him, even though
he lived
just four houses down from me
for years,” I said to her
and she sipped her wine
took a bite of the cheese and replied
“You didn’t miss much. He was a pervert.”

But there we were
outside
with the evening coming on
and that girl of sixteen,
Lilly,
smelling of pomegranates and sage
pushing you playfully in the shoulder
as I said how I was listening
to Sonic Youth
and was really caught up in them
with having all their albums
and a t-shirt.

She smiled.

You looked up at
the darkened window
of a neighbor’s house
and said you had to leave
and then left
with your big shoulders shrugging
as you pocketed your
hands while walking
away.

She tried to hide
her look of disappointment
but couldn’t
and we stood there some minutes
uncomfortable
until I asked her if she would like
to take a walk

and she said
“Sure.”

We walked into town
where I bought us dinner at Chester’s
hamburgers and fries
and pie for dessert
talking about music
and art and faith
the whole time

and then afterwards we strolled along
the creek
where the conversation changed
and we spoke of
more personal matters, our futures
our dreams and our loves,
while smoking cigarettes
in the dark
beside the rippling water
that looked like white birds
skittering aimless
in flight
under the light of
a distant lamp.

Dropping her off back at her
house I felt both dead
and alive
as she kissed my cheek
and touched my elbow
soft electricity exciting and distant
on her lips

“You’re sweet, and right now
I hate
my heart,”
she said with eyes
a tender brown.

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