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GOODBYE NOTE TO DEBBIE FULLER: PASS G? ON / David Clewell Whoever this Debbie Fuller is in your poems, she ought to be collecting royalties. —a gentle reader When we passed those notes to each other and laughed behind Miss Jago's back in HamUton School, we were flirting with real danger. The secret insults and atonement that passed for our friendship seemed effortless in cursive, too easUy could have become a part of our Permanent Record. Those days we got away with more than we ever dreamed, so many ways of saying Tm sorry again, I won't do it anymore, and I promise not to get you into trouble from now on. As if we could help ourselves. If I've named names under pressure in my Ufe since then in the late-night interrogation rooms of the heart, if I've had to write out one more doctored confession, give up on mamtaining my innocence one more night and your name is the one I keep coming back to, I'll admit it: you're the aUbi I've needed, the only one who can place me mUes and years away from the dried blood, the chalked outline of childhood on the sidewalk. Otherwise Tm looking at some serious hard time, and you know I'U be taking you with me. Say I feU hard for those dirty blonde bangs, those doleful eyes, those corduroy skirts and okay, finaUy, even the way you moved to Basking Ridge, New Jersey, that December of '65 without breathing a word to anyone, not even to me in the hoUday assembly when I was the top of the wobbling human Christmas tree and you placed that cardboard star on my head with a kiss we never practiced in rehearsal. How could you know that you were Ughting up forever, improvising one last piece of business that was nowhere The Missouri Review · 39 in the script? Maybe no one told you either, or you didn't know how to say it. Maybe that day was your rendition of uncanny grace under pressure. I was ten and thought I knew everything I could possibly want for Christmas for the rest of my Ufe. I wanted you earUer in the alphabet, or taller, depending on any given day's meticulous instructions for lining up on our way to whatever came next. My faintest hope was always rained-out gym, huddled inside, boy-girl-boygirl for almost an hour, no questions asked. God, I wanted you to realize how much it mattered too. Those were the days before love knew its own name, almost before hormones in their nervous skirmishes at the borders of wherever we were. I don't know why, after so many years of everything I've put you through in words—sUent partner in a thousand schemes, or worse, my unwitting accompUce— you stiU keep coming back to me. As if ifs been in your power to refuse, as if you've had anything to say. I'll confess again: I've used you, but I guess I'd Uke to beUeve I haven't used you up completely. So here's my promise at long last: you won't have to get dressed on short notice, hurry out of a house fuU of people who love you more for whatever you've become. No more questions of what do I wear in this poem, what can he possibly want from me now? TU leave you alone to look me up in your own sweet version of time. And people who insist on reading this before it gets to you can sigh and shake their heads if they want to, as long as they keep it moving whUe the world drones on through its inscrutable arithmetic, geography without end, through its far-flung chalky sense of history whUe the radiators hiss and the dock lops off another minute you're too far away to whisper all this in your ear. As long as they know this one's for Debbie FuUer, 40 · The Missouri Review David Clewell for old times' sake, for aU the good it does, from the kid stiU making...


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