“Rob Smuniewski Is Dead” by Jack Powers

Jack Powers


Dead at 18. Hit by an 84-year-old driving a 20-year-old Honda.
Rob Smuniewski, whose engine revved higher than any of ours, dead.
Who wrote “I love redheads” on his desk, on his locker,
who stood on a table in the cafeteria and asked a redhead to the prom,
who jumped down and danced out of the room shaking his head when she said no,
who wrote a love poem to redheads from a list of favorite words (ginger, auburn, strawberry,
freakin’ and one I said he couldn’t use in school) which ended “the only way to tell
if the drapes match the rug is to see the—and that’s the word you said I can’t use!”
Who loved his quad, broken down on that January night.
Rob Smuniewski, who must have flown in the air like the deer I hit last winter in Maine
shot out of the darkness, eyes as wide as mine, both helpless to stop the sudden collision.
Rob, who danced more than walked, dead. Rob, who called the ladies “Dawl”
and the men “Coach,” always neat in khakis, oxford shirts—argyle vests and ties
for game days—who told his sister, “I don’t go to school to learn;
I go to entertain.” Who taught me never to ask, “Any questions?” in class
when he said, “Yeah. I have two. How come my nose always gets sunburned first
no matter what I do. Look! I look like freakin’ Rudolph! And another thing!
When you wear a robe around the house you’re supposed to feel manly. I feel like a woman.
What’s with that?” Rob freakin’ Smuniewski. Dead. Who you knew, even when you wanted
to strangle him, couldn’t find his own off switch any more than you could, who would
apologize later and say, “You the man, Coach.” Who, when he launched into
the frosty air, might have waved to the fear-stricken driver, might have thought this will make a great story,
might have thought as I did when Cam rolled her old Volvo thirty years ago in Vermont
as the black pavement rose to meet my passenger window, “So this is how it freakin’ ends.”

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011


Jack Powers: “I always hated poetry, but unlike Marianne Moore I meant it. I preferred short stories or personal essays, but one day in a writing class I found myself writing a poem. While one part of my brain was saying, ‘What are you doing? You hate poetry,’ the other was saying, ‘Shut up. I’m trying to write.’ I’ve learned that some things can only be expressed well in a poem. And every so often I stumble upon one of those things.”

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