Of course, he meant nothing to me
alive. Why would he, a boy
in the neighborhood I’d only ever
glimpse slumped on the black bench
or hunched over the circle of fifths.
The only thing that passed between us
was a look—when I asked him for music
theory workbooks—with his faint scrawls
in D minor, and oh, how the trophies decorated
the wallpaper. He handed them to me as if I weren’t there.
The day before he died, I drove back to Dallas
and saw his shadow on the concrete for the first time,
cigarette anchored to his pearly teeth. Yes,
I remember the teacher’s incessant praise, the way all
mothers prayed for genius sons like David.
And in the rear view mirror, the golden line
from the sun pierced through his hair, as if he
had already become an angel or a madman.
Days stretched by, and I stumbled over a stack
of theory books, my quarter notes on top of his erased rests.
God, I could almost hear him singing Caruso.
The night he swam in the moth-infested river
and became oxygen-free, he must have heard the music
or the years I spent aching to be a prodigy,
still wondering how we forgive ourselves for all
the better lives we were only almost good enough for.
Lisa Zou is a freshman at Penn. Her work has been recognized multiple times by both the National YoungArts Foundation and Johns Hopkins University. Most recently, she was shortlisted for the United Kingdom's Buxton Poetry Contest. On campus, she is involved in the Women in Leadership Series.