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by Jean Armstrong

After his suicide, she unpacked her mind
of calumnies and guilts. The cedar chest
took care of everything else: diplomas, rings,
pipe rack and pipes, fraternity keys.

Faithless but no felon, she had no accusers.
It was all his fault—weak man,
consummate sadist,

to die like that—to fall and fall,
conscious after fifteen flights of air,
to stare, to mutter his Christian name,
and thus give columnists heroic news.

A remarkable thing, to live, survive,
even single minutes beyond that
terrible, terminal thud. It was,
they wrote, undoubtedly due

to his splendid build,
to ritual years of sport,
to national victories.

And she—she was a failed teammate,
that was all.

Luckily, his old school won
the Poughkeepsie Regatta
again that year.

Eighteen minutes,
thirty-three-point-six seconds.

Record time.


Jean Armstrong teaches at Rutgers in Newark. (Spring 1975)

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