by Kevin Sweeney
She sat on the right, was willing to answer
questions which, nights in July, met silence
from others, gave me an enthusiastic Hi
in the student lounge in October, but
January an asst dean of dreary
emailed the obit from the Press Herald.
She died of some misnomer natural cause
at 27, had worked for years at a jeweler’s,
loved Westbrook, her home town that hasn’t
smelled since they cleaned up the paper mill.
When relating literature and real life, she’d
often said, “My fiancé and I” and a quick
pulse of doubt entered the room: Do you
have a ring? Has he said he’s willing to go
that far with a plain heavy girl in glasses,
a voice nature calibrated a decibel too loud?
Her name was Joanna. I liked her earnest ways,
hand in the air with insight. She wasn’t the girl
kidnapped, strangled and dumped off Rte. 25
or the young man last seen at Bill’s Pizza after
the bars closed, found floating under Veterans’
Bridge two months later. No one taped her
photo to every door in every building asking
HAVE YOU SEEN HER?
The email said nothing about a flag
at half–mast, made it clear she wouldn’t be
graduating in May, returning for summer
school again when I’ll be teaching that
same course in the same room.