To Joanna, Fourth Grade

I remember how I passed your door,
Too shy to knock, and passed once more
And yet again,
imagining the ecstasy that might have been
Had I been bold and you'd walked with me.

We might have walked down moonlit streets
'Neath elders that the stars peeked through,
I might have touched your peach-smooth cheek
And told you how I cared for you:

How every day across the isle
My eyes beheld you longingly,
How your rare, sun-conveying smile
Would stir a wild new song in me.

How your blue-bright expressive eyes
Were all the sky I longed to see,
How that I longed to empathize
And tell you what you meant to me.

How I longed to stroke your downy arms
And laugh with you, and talk, and kiss,
And drink your look so rich with charms
And be your love in perfect bliss...

But you moved away!
Then your letter came
With its thunderbolt-that you cared for me!
You'd signed, "I love you, Gene, Joann,"
And said I should your pen-pal be.

With what wild joy I drank your words,
Redrank them then drank again
With what unwisdom answer made,
That no hope lay in staying friends.

That there was just no way for us
To save a love so far apart,
That you should find another love,
But keep me somewhere in your heart.

Now that some forty years have flown,
Your sky-blue gaze still haunts my mind.
Where are you now? Are you still fair
Or casualty of thieving time?

Are you a mother now and mate,
And does your husband treat you well?
Or are you sad and desolate,
The victim of some private hell?

Were I not shy to show myself,
Or afraid of whats become of you,
Would it not be a joy to take from the shelf
The history of me and you?

And recollect our child-rich love
(And love it was, though we were young.)
Speak of the dance we'd never had,
The sweet duet we'd never sung.

The clumsy kiss we didn't share,
That first electrifying touch
Of elbows in the theater--
Too shy to look or say that much.

1 had a thought to quest for you,
But thought again, 'it's better thus- -
Not knowing what life put you through
Or what, indeed, became of us.

For time's cold war can wreck much change,
And, lest our young dream prove a lie,
Perhaps its best it stays the same-
Still young and fresh in memory.'

So we'll not meet this side the grave,
But with this poem our song is sung.
Safe in my heart our dream I'll save
Where we still walk both shy and young.

Gene Pinkney (1988)


I must make one small confession now
To set the records straight,
About a dreadful thing that happened
Back in nineteen forty-eight.
It was on the Fairmount playground
During afternoon recess
And the kids were all out reveling
In Spring's first wondrousness;

The snow was ripe for snowballs,
Hundreds, waiting to be thrown,
And the air was streaked with missiles
Not a few of which, were my own.
Then my eyes fell on a target
Just too fine to be ignored,
Sweet and lovely Joann Faulkner-
Whom my pilgrim soul adored.

She stood in a crowd of playmates
Like a swan amid the crows,
And in one mindless moment
I picks up a ball and throws--
And it caught her flush upon her face,
That matchless face I longed to see
Each morning when I took my place
Where she sat across the row from me.

And then I saw her crying
And Mrs. Bjornson soothing her,
And I felt as much like dying
As some guilty murderer.
Well, nobody saw my horrid deed,
I shrank with my guilt away,
And have never made confession
Till this poem this very day:

Where I only want at last to say
To you and God above,
Joann, I threw that snowball
Out of nothing but pure love.

Gene Paul


Joanna Revisited

I saw you once again last night;
Our thought came to my mind;
You stood upon your balcony
In all your youthful shine.

Your hair, still long and streaked with gold,
Your eyes still fiery blue;
My love for you I hadn't told;
May sparkled like fresh dew.

We-- both still children-- not a line
To speak or mark our brows,
I cast my blush, all asinine;
You smiled and thought, "What now?"

And then we heard the recess bell,*
My cue to turn away;
I waved a hesitant farewell;
You waved back too, but stayed.

Weather I saw you after school
My dream did not unfold,
It only let me touch once more
Our childhood realm of gold.

And though the setting of our play
Has long since been removed,
My mind slips back to yesterday
Forgetfulness reproved.

Fare well once more, Joanna, now sixty-ish, like me;
Oh what a gift is memory on life's unsteady sea.
It treasures up sweet moments, preserving them unchanged
Then slips them back to us in dreams
Improved and rearranged.

Gene Pinkney, 11/12/04

*Joann Faulkner's house was less than half a block from our main playground.

The house, (now completely gone), indeed had a small balcony but I never, for all my passing by, saw Joann out on it. Interestingly, my grand daughter, Nicolette, now 10, looks in many ways like Joann used to-especially the breathtaking blue eyes and tall, willowy shape.

Copyright 2006 ? Gene Pinkney
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