Joan Larkin

One Fragment of 1980

I knew some of the women
standing in a ragged circle
passing a lit joint
pinched between thumb and finger.
Watched it pass, their bursts
of laughter small explosions
in my solar plexus.
my sweating glass to my cheek,
confused by the close dance I’d had
with a woman whose drunk girlfriend
watched, smiling and smoking.

I studied a patch of sun on the floor.
Weed-smell filled the room.
Don’t you hate it?—thin,
dark Linda next to me
had seen my face.

She joked about not knowing
names for feelings: mad, glad,
sad—weren’t there four?
Scared shitless, I offered.

I didn’t say grateful.
Didn’t guess,
until the party and her name
came back to me tonight,
how much I owed—still owe—
that shred of smiling talk.

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Joan Larkin’s books include Blue Hanuman and My Body: New and Selected Poems (Hanging Loose). Old Stranger is forthcoming from Alice James Books in Summer 2024. Joan co-founded Out & Out Books during the '70s feminist literary explosion and has co-edited four anthologies, among them Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time and A Woman Like That: Lesbian and Bisexual Writers Tell their Coming Out Stories. Her honors include Lambda, NEA, and Shelley Memorial awards. A lifelong teacher, she lives in northern New Jersey.