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He is the boy of luminous skin
A flash of wire-framed glasses
dark head over a book, a bent oar, a musing–
impossibly handsome and distant.
I hold his coat in my arms, in my dreams—
his coat: strips of blues and yellows
unwinding in my sheets: silks, fine wools,
Egyptian cottons.
When I watch him from across the room,
I want his long, scholarly fingers, nails unblemished,
to pause over my cheeks, turning pages.

But I am a pane of glass he looks through.
Comments like finger smudges crowd my edges,
an understanding.  Don’t look at her. Don’t talk to her.
When he catches me glancing away from him:
“She really is very pretty,” he whispers to a friend,
“but they are so busy making fun of her, no one notices.”

He thought I was pretty, this boy I had a crush on
when I was twelve in a catechism class that taught us God was
approachable, loving. Maybe for some, perhaps—
my long list of Josephs
who would have let me starve in famines:
those seven years of lean cattle
before they would ever ask me to dance.

And yet, there was his whisper just loud enough for me to hear it:
I was pretty, I was noticed!
Even if now I could not be allowed the simplest smile
or touch of his sleeve.

Robin Dawn Hudechek

Previously published in The Hummingbird Review Fall/winter 2015-2016