At Seventeen by Ian Janis
I leaned the truth at seventeen that love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles who married young and then
The valentines I never knew, the Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful. At seventeen I learned the truth.
And those of us with ravaged faces, lacking in the social graces,
Desperatly remained at home, inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say, "Come dance with me," and murmured vague obscenities.
It isn't all it seems at seventeen.
A brown-eyed girl in hand-me-downs whose name I never could pronounce
Said, "Pity, please, the ones who serve; they only get what they deserve.
The rich relationed hometown queen marries into what she needs.
A guarantee of company and haven for the elderly."
Remember those who win the game lose the love they sought to gain.
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity.
Their small-town eyes will gape at you in dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen.
To those of us who know the pain of valentines that never came,
And those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball.
It was long ago and far away; the world was much younger than today
And dreams were all they gave away for free to ugly duckling girls like me.
We all play the game and when we dare to cheat ourselves at solitaire.
Inventing lovers on the phone, repenting other lives unknown
That call and say, "Come dance with me," and murmur vague obscenities
At ugly duckling girls like me at seventeen.