That was my awkward Baccalaureate of lust,
when I practiced my speeches to say face-to-face.
I was better alone, more assured in loving;
my recitation never had to come.
was in the same Freshman Lit. seminar. I loved that guy
with the dark curly hair, who sat all fall
in gray T's and sandals, impassively taking in
Wilde, Mann, now and then parting his
fulsome lips out the window, as if recognizing,
in the quad-lawn's grass and those
swaying mint-green elms,
an allegory of his thought.
approach him, though
the books at our hips were the same, our
bookmarks marching steadfastly toward
the back covers. Dog-eared Cliff's
Notes in his back pocket,
confiding in my appraising eye.
Our teacher (a thin
intense woman whose hair
refused to bun neatly,
flying filigrees like
aerials to radar
latent aptitudes) invited
the class to her apartment
to watch Death in Venice.
I felt adult, standing in her
vestibule, before the silent ranks
of security buzzers.
My sweating finger
slipped to the wrong one --
wasn't I learning?
Bernard sat on the couch
only inches away,
and I found
I liked the unaccomplished
than touching. Strange,
to identify at 18
with the worn-out writer,
not the angel-cipher,
sat through the whole film
in silence (what?
was he only auditing?)
until the rented tape
broke inside her VCR.
Then, those gorgeous lips
curled into a little belch
I was different:
the book was in my blood,
I needed the Cliff's Notes for living.
I tortured myself, that Bernard was only waiting
for me to speak first -- to give
our moment its name --
but I never spoke to him, even on the last day,
letting him go across the quad,
watching his back grow
in all that green.