Apology, 1994

1994 apology poem

The day before class

when you finally spoke

after years of working up courage

and I didn’t answer with kindness—

that wasn’t about you.

I held a Jurassic Park paperback

and saw your heart in your gaze

when you asked, “This book any good?”

I have never uttered a colder reply—

“Yep.”

Then I dropped my eyes.

Your hand so close on my desk

held a risk-all invitation

and you waited one more moment

before withdrawing

to the back of the room.

You don’t know

a tiny voice inside cried out:

Wait.  Come back.  I’m sorry.

But my heart seized with fear.

I flashed back to the week before

when I felt your eyes upon me

before I caught your gaze

at the dance.

I recognized the raw loneliness

and I hoped you could see

how miserable I felt

pressed body to body

against my will.

You don’t know

I cursed all men after that night.

My curt answer sprang from that curse.

All class hour I felt tortured,

the point of no return looming

like a guillotine’s blade.

The bell shrilled—you exited first

and I watched you descend the stairs

in a throng of peers.

I froze at the banister

almost crying out your name

in grief and hope

but a dark voice snarled within:

Why would anyone

want you?

 

Months later your wounded gaze

followed me out of the stadium.

I drove alone

between the shadows and falling leaves

listening to Billie Holliday mourn

her unknown loverman.

For one moment

I considered rushing back

to reach for you in the crowd

under all the floodlights.

But a desolate voice whispered

from that wasted class:

You don’t deserve

another chance.

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