alan-tennis-permit-photo-1967
Half-Life
by Alan Walowitz

Small change always burned a hole in my pocket:
had just enough to eat, or to smoke,
or could blow it all on pinball in the lounge—
had to find something to do with these hands,
restless from loneliness with hours to kill before my next class—
studying useless as usual, the library a morgue
with nothing to do but turn pages and steal looks at the studious girls
I pretended I didn’t want. Though in the library lobby
I found one free spirit who read palms for free,
as close as I’d get to hold anyone’s hand
for quite some time. Your love line is jagged,
she told me not confidentially—she liked the audience that had gathered.
You’ll be married many times, and each will end unhappy.
My face must’ve fallen as I realized she, who held onto my wrist
more like a vise than a soft word,
would be another I’d never have,
given the long odds against our long-term happiness.
And then she amended some comfort: No need to worry;
I see by your lifeline you’re bound to die young—
this a sure sign I should buy a pack of smokes,
skip Physics again, and contemplate the half-life,
which I happened to be already living—
and whatever of it might still be to come.

PHOTO: The author’s New York City Department of Parks Tennis Permit, 1967.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I started college when I was just short of 17, turned 17 during my first semester. God knows what my rush was to enter adult life, but the first years of college turned out to be a lonely, friendless place.  Here’s a poem about that time—and it’s mostly true.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz has been published various places on the web and off.  He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY and St. John’s University in Queens.  His chapbook, Exactly Like Love, is in its second printing and is available from Osedax Press.  His second chapbook is seeking a publisher and is currently called What Happiness Looked Like, but, as his tailor once told him, will alter to suit.