By Deb Robins

I never saw when they cleaned off his desk.
He was just a classmate.
I wouldn't have called him friend.

The unexpected whir of his wheelchair 
Always startled me.
And I lived with a constant fear of him
Running over my toes, 
Though he never did.

No, there was no friendship - 
More like an awareness of each other.

I’ll give him this much though.
He was the only one who could 
Take the piss out of  a teacher 
And get away with it.
I guess they felt sorry for him.

When our group proved unruly,
The rest of us would land lunchtime detention upstairs.
And he didn’t have to…
But, he always did his time too – only in the library.

He used to laugh when I cracked a joke,
Even when nobody else did.
Once I farted unexpectedly
In front of everyone.
He said, “Damn noisy wheels on the lino!”

But I never called him at home.
I never called him, friend.

The class is kinda quiet now.
No whirring great throne on wheels.
No anxious toes, no wisecracking.

But now when I say something funny
And nobody laughs,
I want him back
So I can ask him over for dinner.

To the frog ponds
To send me your poem
To the site map


Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468

 Last updated: November 14, 2004