Maggie is a girl I remember
most vividly from Cecil Ave Junior High School.
I can’t remember if I encountered her first
in the seventh or the eighth grade,
though I think it was the eighth.
I know that I first took notice of her
in a Child Guidance therapy group
that a handful of students were
pulled out of class for on a weekly basis.
I never could figure out why Maggie was in there,
but I remember thinking it was something serious –
and would watch her outside of group, on campus, for anything.
My curiosity faded to intrigue of her
awkward and unaware beauty that no one else
seemed to notice. I remember feeling
that her sadness filled her
like a glass of water domed over her brim.
Every movement was like a lesson in strength
and control; like everything that she did
was conscious of her domed sorrow and she
would never let anything publicly touch her,
lest the burden flood down her raw cheeks.
It didn’t take a genius to know that she held
and walked and breathed down something big.
All of us kids sat huddled in a small intimate circle,
in a closet sized room so insignificant,
I myself never even wondered what lived on the other side
of the door leading in.
We were small in numbers and enormous in sorrows.
Some of us acted out,
some of us acted in;
The Breakfast Club of Trauma.
At the time, I didn’t yet know
how to feel sorry for myself.
I was only capable of primitive awareness
of suicidal ideation
and just starting to build the foundation
for my angst. I only said things they expected to hear –
nothing real. I only manipulated the process,
never reaching to scratch unless I could dig deep;
the big word whore for attention.
I made part of the time interesting
by keeping the counselors on their toes;
made them feel like psychiatrists…all fancy
and proud and diagnostic.
I spent the rest of my time analyzing the other kids.
Mostly, they were see-through and predictable…
Then there was Maggie.
Maggie spoke in a whisper –
mainly okay’s but more so in nods.
She wrapped herself in invisible introvertedness.
She would cave her chest into her shoulders
whenever the attention was on her.
She had a nervous smile that never cracked for teeth,
and curly untamed hair like morning wilderness;
natural perm washed clean the night before,
air dried in dreams and sorrowful tossing –
too young to be more aware of the enormity
which neglects from inside to out and top to bottom,
and the abandonments that suffocate comfort.
Never speaking, except the,
“I don’t know.” “Uh, huh.” or “Okay.”
safety net that squirmed its way through
her esophagus; exhaling with jaws of life power,
parting those teeth because she was
caught off guard by friendly counselor inclusion,
second chance banter.
They didn’t ever try to address whatever
was going on in her “situation” because they
could never hold her hand tight enough to
cross that question-answer fence. She was too
sharp in her curt and uncomfortable answers.
They tried everything to aviate those baby spoon questions
into her starved love; but she never parted
her lips long enough – too quick to seal her lips
and the questions would just smear her cheeks
with unwilling, yet polite refusal.
Every answer could have been likened
to a small child’s, “No, thank you, sir.”
Too surprisingly uncommon; too respectful and proper
to not forgive and respect the authority which
she timidly demanded. They never pushed her more than one,
“Come on.” Almost like her frailty was more than
just inside her and even they knew with delicate knowledge
that their words and enticements, if spoken too
forceful or repetitious, had the potential to
break even her skin before our very eyes;
and she would fall apart like a puzzle, from a table,
in that chair, in that tiny room.
So she was left alone.
I remember knowing that it wasn’t a show
and respecting, even admiring that.
She wasn’t looking for attention like most kids
by avoiding it. She really was avoiding it.
And she never concentrated stoicism.
When she found comfort – her smiles were real,
and I think surprised even her.
And that made me smile;
still, makes me smile.
In high school, she packed the Tuesday group –
fragile mute away and came out of her shell,
to seem almost like the new girl in school.
And in way, I guess, she was. New in her invisible
scotch tape armor and subtle make up. With gelled hair,
hard with Aqua Net strength; bigger than the concave chest of,
*don’t look at me* that I remembered,
am proud to remember.
Five days ago though, while registering voters,
she was murdered.
They arrested the guy she was canvassing with.
Nobody really knows what happened yet.
Up until yesterday she was just a scorched doe –
not even a definite “John,” or “Jane.”
But as of today – the semblance of human gained identity,
mother to two small children;
murdered, torched remains lifted from an orange grove east of town.
surprised by her own smile,
the eighth grader left alone
in her feigned invisibility
Breakfast Club of Trauma meetings.
Maggie with curly hair
like untamed wilderness –
air dried in dreams.