The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


David Hamilton

The Next Step

                                                for Rebecca


“When I look at you I get a hard-on.”
Fifteen, alone on a bus, and he, much older,
Had moved to sit beside her, behind the driver.
She looked out the window, kept working on
Her camp craft, plastic lanyards, and then the bus
Broke down. A summer night, a road that threaded
Minnesota forests. “‘Hard-on.’” She had
A pretty good idea of what that was.

But she had to stand up now, get off
On tarmac, its thin shoulder, in shadows
That merged with forest depths, to step down after
Him, behind the driver, inserting himself
To separate them, letting passengers
Surround their calf like mother buffalo.

It’s a funny thing, our reaction to
a girl alone. At a certain age, from
Lolita through nubile, everyone
takes note, and some will want her, as in my
wife’s tale of her bus ride home from camp some
twenty years before we met and I not
there to see the girl who became the girl
I found. That shoot, that sapling—the poet’s
image has been birch—swaying, flexible,
and it’s the bend we see, more suggested
than explored, every lineament tuned to
what she will touch next as our leafing out
in time curves through successive sketches sprung
from deep within our wild resilient selves. 




DAVID HAMILTON has entered his fifth decade in Iowa City as a teacher, editor, glen-fashioner, and writer.  His books and chapbook are Deep River: A Memoir of a Missouri Farm (University of Missouri 2001), The Least Hinge (Frith Press 2002), and Ossabaw (Salt 2006).  For over thirty years, he edited The Iowa Review.



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