Pen and Ink

For this poem, my professor had us write about a difficult subject, so I chose a memory I had from high school. I came from a rather small town – to give you an idea, my graduating class only had 43 kids – so needless to say I knew everyone and their cousins, basically. Ultimately, I went through the entirety of school with the same kids I met in kindergarten, so we knew a lot about one another, for better or worse. When we were in our junior year, a girl in our class got in a car accident on her way to school. I wasn’t especially close with her as friends but given that this was still a girl I knew for years, her death still shook me for a long time. This poem is me trying to grapple with the complexity of my emotions during her death.  

Your Empty Seat

How can I sit in this chipped desk 
staring at a smudged whiteboard full of cell diagrams, 
expected to analyze the circular patterns of
ribosomes and nuclei, 
when I can see your old desk in my peripheral vision? 

We learned about the rain cycle so long ago,
as children in the fourth grade with Mrs. Krohlow - how it  
precipitates and settles onto pavement.
But did you ever anticipate how it would reject
the kiss of your car’s back tires that morning?

What was your last sensation? Was it the harsh caress
of the bark, or the confetti of glass
embedding your skin?
Do I want to know?

I wonder who will fill your desk 
now that you’re gone. Your HA graphite initials will be erased,  
but whose letters will replace them? Will the gum they stick under the chair be the classic spearmint, 
or perhaps strawberry? Will they slouch in your – I mean their seat?
Only your old desk can answer me now.