Jessica Thelen

If I could paint a watercolor: Amherst, Massachusetts,
After James Hoch’s “Bobby Almand, Part XII”

late summer 2006, when I was fifteen,
and show it to you, it would have the black and white
clarity of silent films, ornate intertitles, and an old
church in a college town, rows of 19th century saltboxes,
names with S’s and Z’s in the wrong places, streets
of pizza shops, used book stores, works by local
artists displayed prominently in the windows. If I could
direct your attention, like a professor—look, here—
where you’re pacing in the parking lot of the Newman
Center, the air of dog days, oppressive, clear,
and the incense thick, stale, stuck to black clothes,
you’d see a smattering of cars, flags up, and you
standing still among hysterics, avoiding the eyes
of estranged family members, clenching your teeth
so you don’t have to hear your dad’s mother’s quest
for sympathy, and the countless people asking
Why aren’t you crying? and you stare straight
ahead and concentrate on stained glass,
green and blue beams bounce off
the pavement and you grimace, just so,
not having the courage to say I can’t.