I go, and it is done

the small hurts from the past are sometimes the ones
that stay with you the longest, that are hardest to explain
we sat in English class discussing the humors in Shakespeare
who of us was choleric, who was melancholy, who phlegmatic
so many were named but no one ever picked me until
the teacher said sanguine, the one with a thirst for blood
the dangerous one, the murderous, the secretive—and out of nowhere
you, who had never so much as spoken to me, you the serious girl that
everybody liked because you were smart and centered and kind
you said I was the only sanguine person you had ever met
I sat there stunned as the teacher asked in all innocence why, why him
and you said I was just that kind of guy, the kind likely to murder someone
then came the bell and the classroom rose to clear the room
the bell invites me but I cannot move, I am screwed into my seat
stunned that someone could have thought so long about me
yet found so much about me that she had to fear

that was a hell of a thing

no one ever looked at me the same way after that
here am I fifty years later in a stupid poem remembering my hurt
and my surprise
but I have carried your peculiar insult long enough
I am ready to move on
I forgive you, girl whose name I’ve long forgotten
and I will try to remember to call the Baton Rouge police today
to tell them where you are

—Don Whittington

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