Think back before you transferred schools
Before I sent you mixtapes and then didn’t
Before you married the carwash kahuna
Before you married the widowed Lebanese broker
Before the broker carried your girls off to the Levant
Before you drank that half a pint of Cointreau
And took that whetted razor to the bath
And left me in the pregnant autumn chill
To steady your mother through the Kaddish.
Yes, think back before that.
It’s a day like any other, maybe more so:
We’re fourth graders or possibly fifth
(I believe that was the mock-election year
When you played a fiery Geraldine Ferraro
In an accent to rival Katherine Hepburn’s)
Safe between the foam-padded walls
Of the gymnasium (where my wife and I
Still vote—for real—on Election Days)
And the note that I slid toward your lap
Was intercepted by imperious Mr. Rand.
Do you remember how you refused to surrender
That tattered loose-leaf page until I bid you?
How he read our minor shame into the risers?
Think of that note reaching for your fingers.
May I have it back—just for a moment?
I want to write “I love you” at the end.
Jacob M. Appel is the author of three literary novels, seven short story collections, an essay collection, a cozy mystery, a thriller and a volume of poetry. He is on the faculty of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and practices psychiatry in New York City. More at: www.jacobmappel.com
Photographer’s Note: Wonderful details in this poem. And the note. It made me think of this photo collage with a woman’s face and letters. What would I write? What does it actually say?