An Open Letter to Joseph Peter Naras, Take 2 Or, Today's After-School Special Veers into Explosive Territory Poem by Patricia Smith

An Open Letter to Joseph Peter Naras, Take 2 Or, Today's After-School Special Veers into Explosive Territory



Let me tell you why it never occurred to me to be afraid.

You took off your glasses, and you were perfect, eyes bluer
than any prince written, reachably gorgeous, no hiccup
of light when you stretched for me. No discussion of why
we shouldn't tangle and pump against your locker between
periods, why I shouldn't wrap yards of yarn around your
class ring, wear it dripped between new breasts. We snuck
around and about and pretended normal, lying to parents
about meetings and committees, entering the junior prom
through separate doors, boy, damn decorum, I loved you
I know I did because I know some things by now. I know
that your body was a wizened and ill-advised battlefield
against mine, that your mouth was razored, that "I love you"
was a huge and unwieldy declaration, the kind of blue you
immediately unforgive. My parents weren't yours. They
considered you the naptime-sized American dream, a rung
on the stepladder, the climb every white-capped mountain.
Just be careful, they said, while your father spat blades, said
(these are the words I've imagined, slapped with the wide-eye)
I'll throw you out of my house if I hear about you seeing
that black girl again. Joe, I loved you then, and I love you
still. We are drama born of the truth tell, our tongues so stupid
and urged they continually reached the back of our throats.
Who hates me for actually knowing this? There are hundreds
of songs written about all the things you can't do at sixteen.
There are a million songs written about what I didn't do with you.

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