Once, classroom comrades, knees, in shorts, were as familiar as my own…
that hurried way his head met his neck.
He never grew out of it – a ghost of the child, in a man’s jowls.
But today, ‘short illness, much sadness’ and I mourn,
not for the man I hardly knew, but for the boy,
bored stiff and pinging trouble across empty inkwells.
A shadow of the person I hadn’t met in 40 years
drifts through my memory and I adjust because he won’t answer his name –
next to mine in the alphabet –
when our teacher calls the register.