In sixth-grade homeroom, I sat
by the window beside Claire
in her white sweater, the first
girl at school to fill one out.
She penciled hearts on her desk
with arrows, initials scratched
in each one but never mine.
Looking past her rose-flared cheeks,
I watched the morning disrobe--
pewter mist slinking away,
one white shoulder at a time
bared to the world, snow falling
on the sill forming the smooth
curve of breasts. I felt myself
suddenly leaving my chair,
nose pressing the cold wet glass--
the last thing I saw before
Mrs. Ott snapped her fingers
in my face and scolded me
for failing to call out Here!
Mrs. Dell the lunch lady
who called the tables for recess
would sometimes gather the boys around
the oak tree on the playground,
roll up her sleeve, show us the scars
on her wrist, the man's name
coiled around her arm like a snake,
let us squeeze her bicep.
She'd tell dirty jokes without dentures,
knew we wouldn't tell
on her the way she wouldn't tell
on us. We'd listen for the bell,
line up single file, arms
creased at our sides, the hairs
on our necks as stiff as our collars,
looking as clean if not cleaner.
About the Author: Robert Fillman is a Senior Teaching Fellow at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, where he has edited the creative writing journal Amaranth and directed the Drown Writers Series. Recently, his poems have appeared in Cider Press Review, The Hollins Critic, Poet Lore, Salamander, Tar River Poetry, and other journals. Fillman's poem 'Dumping Leaves' was declared a winner in Third Wednesday's 2017 annual poetry contest. In 2016, he won first prize in poetry at the Pennsylvania Writers Conference. Currently, he lives in eastern Pennsylvania with his wife, Melissa, and their two children, Emma and Robbie.