Every Friday growing up I’d get a chance
to get shot down. I’d ask someone to dance
and mostly they’d say no. I’d say OK
and plan next Friday’s move. On the fray
of the middle school cafeteria, I’d tilt
my head in time with music. I’d jilt
anyone who tried to comfort me
until the lights came on. I’d flee
into my mother’s minivan, wishing
it a smaller car. She’d be fishing
for some idea of how things went.
I’d say something false like I meant
it, something I assumed she wanted
to hear. I was dull and daunted
by the week ahead. I’d look out
the window, remember how devout
I was, three years before. I’d sworn
back then I saw the glowing horns
and nose of Rudolph in the sky.
Maybe it had started as a lie,
I’d said, but I’d known what I saw.
Till puberty I believed in Santa.
Every Friday after aches and hair
consumed my body, I would spare
no mental expense, imagining
the one I’d choose, fashioning
them into everything no single
person could be. I didn’t mingle
with the children chickening
out. I only felt the sickening
dread until the first slow song,
upon which I would make the long
journey to the one that could forever
change Fridays’ bad luck, and sever
everything that was, from what could be.
The times that someone would agree
were rare, but worth it. Afterward
I’d fly, not run, a newborn bird
expecting trees, but only finding sky.
I’d open the van’s door and wouldn’t lie
to my mother. I’d ask if she recalled
the Christmas light I’d been enthralled
by, back when I was young.
She’d say you’re still young,
and I’d say no, and she would sigh,
and while she drove guess where I looked.
—from Poets Respond
February 14, 2023
Thomas Mixon: “I wrote this on the second Friday in a row of unexpected objects being tracked, then shot down from the clouds. I thought back to middle school dances, those Fridays, that excitement, dejection. I thought back to thinking I saw something magical in the sky, when I was young, only to then grow up, and know better.” (web)