The One

by Kendall Witherspoon
The Waters
Third Place, February 2013
Judged by Deborah Bogen


I was just sixteen that eight-track March
thaw when I lied to your face, jumped
a Michigan highway fence with my red-eyed
friend Tommy, the one with the golden
thumb, the one with Edgar Winter’s hair,
the one who taught me about casting seeds
upon the ground, the one without a mother
to lie to and a drunken father whose backyard
beagles bayed along runways while his only
son hitchhiked under the trails of jets.

In Ft. Lauderdale we slept under bridges
with the adept girl from Athens, Georgia.
The one with a woven palm crown,
the one in the fluorescent orange bikini,
the one who called William Calley a hero,
the one who stole the sweater you knitted me,
after she did that guitar-boy for a song.
Later you said you dreamed of me sleeping
under cars, or abducted at a Winn Dixie
adopted by homeless Vietnam vets.

I reminded you of your brother then.
The one who ran to that Louisiana town
without his third wife and his lucky red truck.
The one who drank coffee in his vodka.
The one who owned the laundromat
with the peeling sign on brick, shouting
whites and coloreds welcome here.
The one who played piano by ear, you said.
The one I met when he was dead of cancer.
The one I take after, everyone says.


The rhythm, the pace, the dense imagery kept me reading about this difficult and unresolved coming-of age. This is the one that made me love the repetition of “the one.” --Deborah Bogen

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