Jennifer Judge’s work has appeared in Literary Mama, Blueline, Under the Gum Tree, and Rhino, among others. She teaches writing at King’s College and earned her MFA from Goddard College. Her first book, Spoons, Knives, Checkbooks, is forthcoming from Propertius Press in 2022. Learn more at jenniferjudgepoet.com.
The boys from my high school killed themselves quietly: shotgun in an empty parking lot, mini-golf course after hours. They died in unremarkable ways, strokes and heart attacks at 45. We heard about the deaths months, even years later. They were not poets, not tortured artists like us. We lived while they died. They scared us back then, what we didn’t know—drunk daddies,
slaps with belts, broken glasses. We glimpsed their homes as we drove on country roads. No use pretending we knew the whole story. They don’t make trouble for us anymore, but some nights we can’t sleep for thinking of them, the Charlies, the Tommys, the Spencers, flannel shirts, jeans with earned holes, Herman Survivors, dirty trucks. Slammed me against a locker
once because I had a lesson needed to be taught. Those boys.
Before my daughter arrived, I bought a five-pound bag of sugar and carried it around to get used to carrying my baby. I did this once or twice before deciding it was silly.
She felt nothing like a bag of sugar.
Summer starts full of promise, but then the days become too much and empty, closed in with heat and the noise of air conditioners. Time passes too quickly or too slowly.
There’s a space in a marriage that is empty of everything.
As I get older, it is harder to not say the things I want to say.
This bench is solid and can hold my body. The building overhead will keep me dry if it rains. A groundhog is living under our porch, burrowed in the light dry dirt.
I long for some body of water, to be near a lake, a river, a bay. My husband says all humans want that. I care more for my particular longing.
I remember my mother crying inconsolably once because her mother would not speak to her. I wrapped my arms around her body, noting how small she felt in that embrace. She would not hug me back. I remember saying I love you.
She always says it to her sister at the end of phone calls.
She says it to my daughters.
My mother uses love as a weapon.
I would like to sit inside a Hopper painting, maybe the gas station one, at dusk. Light still in the sky, dark enough indoor lights to spill out on sidewalks. Not a single person in that space.
People leave each other alone in his paintings. We’re allowed to have our moment.