“Straight and Fast”

In college, I took a poetry class that focused on different styles of verse. This was my assignment for a pantoum, in which the second and fourth lines of each quatrain are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. I used the assignment to do a character study for a story I was writing at the time. (Like many stories, it never actually made it out of the pre-writing phase. Alas, poor story, we hardly knew ye.)

His own tombstone would have read “Straight and Fast” 
If Cal had been the one to go out first-- 
Go out, like to a movie or to class-- 
But no, quiet Jem was who’d met the worst.   

If Cal had been the one to go out first-- 
And he should have, he was reckless and wild-- 
And yet it was Jem who had met the worst. 
Jem, who’d been his only friend as a child.   

Yes, Cal should have gone. So reckless and wild 
Were his habits, his speech, his looks, his gait. 
But Jem, his only friend as a small child, 
Had seen past his façade  to something great.   

Yes, Cal’s habits and speech and looks and gait 
Had told everyone that he would die young. 
But beneath his facade were things so great-- 
A love for his friend and tears that still stung.   

Everyone had assumed Cal would die young, 
And smart, quiet Jem would be college-bound, 
But Jem’s love for his friend--oh the tears stung!-- 
Led him and Cal to the car and through town.   

Smart, quiet Jem had once been college-bound, 
But with a crash and a scream, he had passed. 
Yes, the car with Cal (alive) in the town 
Had ended Jem’s life: too straight and too fast. 

Copyright Sarah Davidson 2020

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