To the Girl Stranded by the Side Doors of Denfeld High School at 9:52 on a Monday Night Forgotten by Her Mother but Found and Accompanied by the Blue-Overalled Janitor
by Ryan Vine

I used to think that you could choose
your family; that what they did
made no difference; that you could find
some new mother or father, someone
who’d gladly take you in, bruised
as a ball, weird as a rubber tack, pain-
ridden as you are, but I was wrong.
I’m sorry. It’s not true. It’s hard
to explain, but in busses, in line
in the lunch room, on swing sets
or laps in cars, in interviews and committees
you’ll always be standing
in that dark vestibule, in the hours before
the kindly janitor flooded it with hall light.
Even in your favorite songs you’ll hear
the silence you two stood in,
he behind his broom, while you waited.
I have little advice. Really, there’s no one
in the world to help you make your way.
You may find now that white rooftops
in the cloudy winters of West Duluth
make you sad, their tethers of smoke twirling.
You used to love the way that looked.
The sky itself seemed an extension
of the houses: all of Duluth
under the same stretched roof. I promise
you this: your mother will find you.
She’s coming. She’ll honk from the curb,
and you’ll leave the janitor saying nothing
and slump into the front seat
and smell the familiar alcohol
and smile and tell her you missed her.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 1.

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Ryan Vine’s chapbook, Distant Engines, won a Weldon Kees Award from Backwaters Press; the Greensboro Review awarded his work the Robert Watson Poetry Prize; and his new manuscript, Shiv, was a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award from Utah State University Press. He teaches in Duluth, MN, where he is the Rose Warner Assistant Professor of English at the College of St. Scholastica.

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