David J. Thompson

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Stop Reading Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
            My sense . . .

The air is dry and clean up here
at the mountain sanatorium.
They carry me out to the terrace
and wrap me in heavy blankets
every afternoon. Breathe deeply,
they tell me, but I can only drift
in and out of sleep and squint
at the snow, listen to the silence
until the evening shadow creeps
over me and covers  the valley below.

Six months ago I shook my bride
awake, and pointed at the pool
of bright blood on my pillow.
I asked her what she thought it was;
she rubbed her eyes, kissed me quickly,
and said, I’m sure it’s nothing, but
maybe you should stop reading Keats
right before you go to sleep at night.
I started to laugh, went to pull her close,
then started to shake and cough and cough
a loaded, shrieking cough I could not stop
no matter how close I tried to hold her.

The Girl He Never Said A Word To

He’s thinking the party was fine,
good food and beer, funny people,
but this hour long drive home alone sucks.
He’s taking a sip from the Coke
he brought to help stay awake
when he recognizes the opening
notes of the Rolling Stones’ Angie
on the radio..Damn he says to himself.
Goat’s Head Soup. Had that one back
in high school. Wore it out senior year.

When he put that album on his stereo
while he did his math homework
it wouldn’t be long before before
he started thinking about that girl Angela
whom he never talked to but sat next to him
in French class. He’d picture her sitting there
in faded jeans with the thickest brown hair
he’d ever seen and evident breasts pushing
against a black ski sweater, put his pencil down
and reach eagerly between his legs. He thought
about whispering the words to that song
in her ear and about kissing her slowly,
moving his hand up the front of her sweater.
When the song ended he’d check the hall,
then step quickly into the bathroom,
lock the door behind him, be finished
in a few minutes, ready for more equations.

As the song ends, he’s singing along
at top volume. He checks his grin
in the rearview mirror, but a glimpse
of his white beard reminds him
that Angela of the gorgeous hair
and prominent breasts is now
sixty years old, too, probably
a plump grandmother back in
Poughkeepsie somewhere.
Jesus Christ, he thinks to himself.
No wonder I don’t jerk off anymore,
but he goes on singing anyway,
and dreaming about the girl
he never said a word to.

David J. Thompson is a former prep school teacher and coach. He grew up in Hyde Park, NewYork, and currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His new book, GraceTakes Me, is available from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. Please visit his photo website at ninemilephoto.com.