Janice Northerns

My boyfriend and I page through
his high school yearbook, the 1968
Blue Devil, giggling over bell bottoms
and bangs. Mostly, it’s just what I expect:
his picture on every other page as cool
quarterback, president
of the senior class,
salutatorian. Inscriptions are scribbled
all over by fellow players and girls
with prom queen good looks.
Every message
is high school trite
until I come to one
from a boy named Gary,
which starts out usual
but ends with the truth:

You were lucky in high school
because people will remember
your name.

I ask about this one; my boyfriend
says ten years after graduation,
Gary, doing eighty,
drove his car off a cliff.
Something about
that yearbook sentence
makes me want to find this boy,
whose picture appears
only once,
and tell him I understand
his black hunger
in driving over the edge,
hoping that years later
and miles from shattered glass,
someone would tell the story
to a woman, and she
would not forget his name.

Author's Note: The poignancy of Gary’s comments immediately struck a chord with me as I looked through an old high school yearbook of a friend (who later became my husband). When he explained what happened to Gary later, I knew I had to write this poem.

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A native Texan, Janice Northerns currently lives in southwest Kansas, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at a community college. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Southwestern American Literature, Iron Horse Literary Review, College English, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Conference of College Teachers of English Studies, SLANT, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of the Robert S. Newton Creative Writing Award from Texas Tech University.