Jul/Aug 2010 Poetry

For a Girl Whose Name I Can't Quite Remember

by James Valvis

Artwork by Costel Iarca

For a Girl Whose Name I Can't Quite Remember

Jablowski, I'm almost certain of it,
Though it might have been Jablonski.
The first name eludes me entirely,
But I want to say it was Joanne, or Jody,
Something alliterative, at any rate:
Joanne Jablowski or Jody Jablonski.

The class was political science, senior year
At Toms River High School East, a course
That was supposed to be for Honor students,
Which I never was, but I got into the class
On some kind of filing error, then lied
When the number of students betrayed me.

There on a technical fluke, I felt inferior,
And maybe this is why, though infatuated
With Judy Jablowski, or whathaveyou,
I never ventured from my end of the room
To hers, where she sat, legs pinched together,
Second or third seat back in the first row.

She was a brunette, I remember, thin,
Pretty in a regular way, not a future model
But also not likely to give you a headache
To look at her, and an average student,
All things considered, certainly no brighter
Than me, though her grades were better.

I was dating a girl I met over the summer;
Tammy was her name, and, yes, I recall
Her surname, but, no, I won't give it here.
Suffice to say she was also a thin brunette
Who was pretty in a standard way, though
Her grades were much worse than mine.

There was some talk of marriage with Tammy;
But just talk, seeing how we were seventeen.
Yet, who can tell? It might have happened
If not for the fact I grew enraptured with Julie
(She might possibly have been Joan or even Jill),
And, thinking myself in love, I dumped Tammy.

I guess I thought one day I'd work up the nerve
To ask out Justine Jablonski, but I never did.
As far as I recall, we never even spoke, except
Maybe a passing word or two that sent my heart
Fluttering across the room, gave me some hope
When really it was a hopeless situation all around.

The year skipped on, and I made good grades,
Though half the time I sat staring at the first row—
(I don't think Jane or Jenny ever noticed me)—
And by the time I realized I'd been stupid,
Tammy was long gone, dating a bar bouncer.
And what happened to Jablowski I cannot say.

But where would I be today without this girl,
This girl whose name I can't now retrieve,
This girl who today would not know my name
At all, if she even learned it back then?
What joys, what woes, would have found me,
If not for this girl? And would I even be here?

I cannot guess and I don't think anyone can tell me
What consequence these ghosts have on our fates,
The ones who shift into our peripheral eyesight,
Just a moment, then dart forever from our vision,
To be summoned only on lonely nights like this
When more immediate ghosts don't take precedence.

And I have always thought my life insignificant,
Effecting only those few around me, but who knows?
Perhaps out there someone is trying to remember me,
Hoping to place a name with a face, a mannerism—
A silent love or loathing that never amounted to much,
Yet set things in motion in certain ways, our true paths.

So, for what it's worth, Jolene or Jade, Jessie or Janet,
I will remember you, vaguely but always,
Seated second or third seat back in the first row,
Tossing your brunette hair as you took your notes,
While our teacher schooled us on the Senate and House
And all the other jokes we believed governed our lives.


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