Francine Witte

When I Think About Jake

I think of him drop-kicked across the couch,
Freshman dorm. Him coming back from a mixer

where the punch was spun with vodka. He’d
sleep it off, and when he woke, we’d talk to him

for hours, me and Julie, whose baby would end up
having Jake’s eyes. Julie would say that Jake’s a goof

and everyone knows it, but that didn’t stop love from
smacking her in the heart. I wanted to warn her, but

didn’t, and six months later, Jake was needle-
dead. Julie would sleep in the scoop on the couch where

Jake had flopped himself so many times. By now, her belly
had swollen into a face. When she tossed and turned,

I could hear her dreams where Jake had his ropey arms
around her, swinging her dosey-doe, the spin of it

getting her passion-drunk. When she woke up, she would
shake her head, throw words like shame and potential

into the air, let them sail like a football and splat to the floor.
Now, she calls out of nowhere. Twentieth reunion, and do

I want to go? We haven’t talked in forever, and she texts
me a photo of her son, grown now, with Jake’s gangly arms,

only trackless. I think how sometimes the past can be fun,
Only not when it’s a sick I finally got cured of. Not when

the echoes of what I should have told her, and told her again
if she didn’t hear it the first time. Walk away from it, another

echo is saying, only this time it’s for me. It’s for Julie.
And even, in a way, for Jake, whose ghost still hovers

above us all, an invisible hand ready to press itself down.


Francine Witte’s poetry collections include Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh (Kelsay Books) and Some Distant Pin of Light (forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press, 2023,) as well as chapbooks Not All Fires Burn the Same (2016 first prize winner, Slipstream,) and First Rain (Pecan Grove Press.) She is also a flash fiction writer. She lives in NYC.