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Odes to Van Wert

Ode to Angela, who works at Brookside.

If I were to see you in public,
I would have to duck out of your sight.
You wouldn’t recognize me, of course,
wearing clothes other than my pajamas
and without raccoon eyes of old makeup.

At night, you’re my closest friend, my confidant,
behind the counter of the old gas station.
Always good to see you, you tell me.
Likewise, I say, forcing a smile.
Tonight your hair is pink. Tomorrow? Who knows.

You notice I’m crying before I do.
She was a real sweet lady, you say,
Your grief as genuine as my own.
My total is three ninety-nine.
You didn’t charge me for the slushee.

Ode to Nicholas, a childhood friend

I gave you some flowers for your vase.
They brightened up your room,
but they were never meant to last forever.
We tried to talk about our futures,
but were too scared to get very far.

The next time I was at your place, so were they,
looking comfortable in their spot on your desk,
some petals lost, but beautiful as ever.
That was the day of graduation,
when we had our first big fight.

I came over again. The flowers remained.
They were covered in brown spots, and wilting.
I can’t get rid of them, you said. They’re from you.
I told you I was leaving town soon.
You had never looked so betrayed.

I visited you when I was back home.
The flowers were rotting, almost black.
I still want them. They were beautiful once.
You tell me what’s new, but I can’t listen.
I am too distracted by the flowers’ stink.

I don’t go to your place anymore.
You said you didn’t want to see me,
and I was flooded with guilty relief.
You finally threw the flowers away.
I almost wish I hadn’t gone with them.

Ode to Tyler, the Brumback, and stupendous adolescence

The first date of my life was in the Brumback Library,
the red-roofed castle, my childhood home.
He picked me up in his mother’s Jaguar.
I, freshly sixteen, hadn’t yet learned to drive.

We started off in the children’s basement
next to the mermaid painting I’d always loved.
We read a book about extra yarn,
our knees bumping into the too-short tables.

We made our way to the next floor up
and read a book on life, love, and sex.
Blushing, and unable to make eye contact,
we couldn’t fill the adult chairs either.

Ode to the ones who encouraged me along the way

I heard from my internship manager first.
Anthropology? he said with a laugh.
You’ll end up in a box on the road.
Think you’re too good to be an engineer?
What the hell is anthropology anyway?

Engineering? With your creativity?
My band director was shocked when I told her.
It’d be a big waste of your talents.
You’ll be locked up in some office all day.
Music is what you need to do.

Music! My government teacher found it funny.
Sure, you’ll be a great McDonalds’s cashier!
You’ll need to earn a real living someday.
Why not psychology, like you talked about?
Why can’t you do something practical for once?

Psychology, said the guidance counselor.
Well, there’s a surplus of psych in the workforce.
Unless you go to graduate school,
there’s really no point in it, is there?
You’d be better off not going to college.

You need to get yourself educated,
my foreman told me on break one day.
A brain like yours? You could do anything.
Whatever you wanted, you could do!
Oh, except English. They don’t make any money.

Ode to the unnamed man on the hoverboard

They didn’t know what to make of him
(or his hat, or his coat, or his hoverboard)
when he first arrived in Van Wert.
Whispers flew from mouth to ear to mouth–
He made a million dollars in tech,
he came to retire and try to be mayor.
Seemingly unbothered, he rolled around town,
pushing his daughter’s stroller all the while.

He bought the second-hand furniture store
and hasn’t figured out its new purpose.
He’s filled the storefront with dragon’s skeletons,
one of them wearing a black fedora, like his.
No one knows what he’s planning with it–
maybe he doesn’t have a plan at all?
They aren’t finding out anytime soon.
No one’s talked to him; he hasn’t joined a church.

The kids in town talk if they see him,
delighted, even only for a moment,
to be in the presence of celebrity
(no matter how it had been attained).
He’ll never exactly be one of us,
but you should have heard how the townsfolk cheered
when his daughter got out of her stroller
and onto a hoverboard of her very own.

2 Responses to “Odes to Van Wert”

  1. kamal20 says:

    This is too wonderful, Rachel <3

  2. Wonderful work here, Rachel.

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