Monday 20 February 2023

Three Poems by Thomas Elson


Years and Yearbooks

They took no classes together

And, after that first year

Never attended the same school

But somewhere, inside the scattered years of their lives

There were yearbooks.


He drives slowly now, slower than he used to

Even more slowly today, through the empty school parking lot 

The first time in fifty-eight years.

Windows not yet boarded. Walls not yet graffitied.

His cane balances an unsteady walk

As he inches toward his youth.


His raised left hand shields the sun’s reflection

Then steadies him against the window

As he searches

For their two adjoining lockers –

Where she had slammed her locker door

When it hit the side of his head –

And he looked at her for the first time.


Somewhere at the end of another hallway

He’s forgotten in which direction  

The lunchroom

Where one evening

At the end of the school year

He walked toward her sitting with legs crossed

Atop a long table

And, after she said, Yes, he handed her his yearbook 

He remembered

How she cradled it on her lap

How her hands smoothed the blank page

His not wanting her to let go.

She wrote,

Well, Mike, we met when I hit your head with my locker door.

Hope we get the same lockers next year.

His yearbook, now lost. His words to her now forgotten.


He thought of her all summer.

Wished he could be with her

But their district split and

Sent them to different schools.


That September he called. She accepted.

And they grew into a couple - three nights a week on the phone

Every Friday and Saturday together  

Through difficult classes and summer jobs

Their parallels as a couple abounded

She the cheerleader

He captain of football and basketball teams

Both college bound


Lives stride by stride until he discovered

The world, and she preferred a classroom

He wanted her to change

She wanted peace and security

He traveled the country

She moved to a farm and taught in a small school

He continued to feel her presence decades after she returned his ring


He saw her only once after that - from afar and was

Forced to lean against a railing to quiet himself


As he does when he looks at her senior photo

Then drives past her house –

Where they parked for hours

Where they last met when she said good-by


As he does now when he drives to the high school and

Searches through the window for their lockers –

Where for a moment

He is young

And unbroken.


Ecce Homo

An old man. A thief. A crook. A liar. A manipulator.

Frozen. Bitter. Misogynistic. Critical. Skeptical.

Fought cowardly. Lived blindly. Lusted universally. Mistaken usually. Remembered angrily. Forgot rarely. Complained copiously. Worried incessantly.

Acted superior. Felt inferior.

Potential unlimited. Opportunity divine. Failure complete.

Died today as I watched him struggle for his last breath.

How To Start Your Day Without Coffee

Yank the knife from your belt.

Place your left hand - palm down – on the kitchen table.

Close your eyes

Slam the knife point toward your hand.


For the sounds

From the table? From the knife? From you?

Open your eyes. Look at your hand.

Now start your day.

Thomas Elson’s stories appear in numerous venues, including Blink-Ink, Ellipsis, Better Than Starbucks, Bull, Cabinet of Heed, Flash Frontier, Ginosko, Short Édition, North Dakota Quarterly, Litro, Journal of Expressive Writing, Dead Mule School, Selkie, New Ulster, Lampeter, and Adelaide. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas. 

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