At Twelve I
of Touching
Caroline's Neck

I spent my childhood with my hand on the necks of imaginary girls
who looked and talked like the girls I knew in real life.
This was before I was old enough
to learn that boys ought to like tits and ass,
before I got told that the best part of a swimsuit
was what it covered. Life before breasts. I miss it.
Still, there were girls, whose clothes I memorized.
Emily, whose blue-and-brown aquarium dress’s ugliness I forgave
for the tight black shirt she matched it with,
because its neckline rested so nicely on her throat
that it looked like a second skin. Or her red frilly thing,
which fit loosely enough that the shirt hung open at her neck,
very slightly, like a mouth murmuring secrets.
Caroline’s cute turtleneck with a zipper on the righthand side —
“How perfect,” I thought, “for a lefty” —
which just about beckons your hand to the proper place.
You know the position: One arm behind her back,
left palm gently on her right cheek,
pointer and middle fingers tucking her hair back behind her ear.
Ring and pinky wrapped at the neck’s bend, partly to pull her closer,
but more to feel the movements behind her breath, her voice,
the upward pull of her smile.
Those were my daydreams of these girls
who kissed boys and danced so tight it made me go weird.
The girl who’d follow cute boys into the bathroom…
How would her curls react to a brush of a finger?
Then two years passed, my voice dropped, and I realized
I was missing something, so I spent five years thinking
maybe I was a loser for not kissing girls in middle school
or getting them into anal, for not knowing what “anal” meant.
But now I remember Caroline, her nervous ice blue eyed smile,
her lips that looked like a frosting so sweet it would hurt the teeth,
and I think: They never touched you the place I’d have touched you,
the cheek neck you lost when you grew older.
They touched the wrong places.
They missed the place that counts.