Spring 2012, Volume 12

Poetry by Lowell Jaeger

Lenny

He’d knock and open before I answered
in the locker room where busboys, prep–cooks,
and high school dishwasher jocks hung
their street clothes and readied for another shift.
I’d be unbuttoning my bellbottoms
when he’d settle in for a smoke like clockwork
on the bench too nearby as I stripped,
just the two of us, and we’d pretend
a conversation to cover over things unsaid.

Would I give him a ride on my new bike?
Sure, I said, maybe someday.  Did I want him
to work things out with Mandy, the manager,
so I’d have weekends for swim team?
Sure, sure I would.  I did not
not enjoy being singled out.  And I let him
drape an arm around my shoulders,
buddy–like, down the long basement corridor
to the stairs up into the respectable world

where a small town queer was unimaginable
amidst linen tablecloths, suits and ties,
and fine ladies in their finest frocks.
He was twice my age.  He was alone
in his own secret life.  I was only beginning
to understand compassion, how much we all need
to be what we are and loved for it.
I’d be off to college that fall.  Did I
have a girlfriend?  I sure did.  And would I

just give him a ride on my bike someday?
Sure, I said.  Don’t you remember I said I would?
And I’d roar off into the dark and leave him
standing there watching me go.

 

 

 

BIO: As founding editor of Many Voices Press, Lowell Jaeger compiled Poems Across the Big Sky, an anthology of Montana poets, and New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from 11 Western states. His third collection of poems, Suddenly Out of a Long Sleep (Arctos Press) was published in 2009 and was a finalist for the Paterson Award. His fourth collection, WE, (Main Street Rag Press) was published in 2010. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governorís Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.