New Poem by Tom Sexton

We have a new poem from Tom Sexton today, which he sent from his home in Alaska. In this new composition Tom recreates an extended moment in his Lowell youth, reflecting on a kind of confusion most of us have experienced. The details are just right in this self-portrait of the writer as a young man. The soon-to-be published compilation of posts from this blog, “History As It Happens,” includes two poems by Tom, for which we are grateful. He has three collections of writing about the city, “The Lowell Poems,” “A Clock with No Hands,” and “Bridge Street at Dusk,” to go along with his much admired writings about the American West. He is a former Poet Laureate of Alaska and retired professor from the University of Alaska—and listed among the Distinguished Alumni of Lowell High School.—PM


When One Stays Back


8 a.m. my second year in a freshman

homeroom, the only one beginning to shave,

out of place in my yellow pegged pants, hand-

me-downs Ray True was about to throw away.

I was cool only to the Greek girl who sat

behind me trying out her still exotic English:

tonic, Merrimack River, cold water flat,

all new words treasured like a granted wish.


I was tongue-tied almost unable to speak

to her or to anyone who wore a dress.

When she spoke to me my knees went weak.

Was my treasured greaser’s haircut a mess?

Where is she now, my olive-skinned muse

who took my heart without leaving a bruise?


—Tom Sexton (c) 2017

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