First Warm Day in a College Town


Spring in Four Parts – original artwork  © M. Weisel; photo © J. Woo


Today is the day the first bare-chested
         runners appear, coursing down College Hill
                       as I drive to campus to teach, hard

not to stare because it’s only February 15,
         and though I now live in the South, I spent
                       my girlhood in frigid Illinois

hunting Easter eggs in the snow,
         or trick-or-treating in the snow,
                       an umbrella protecting my cardboard wings,

so now it’s hard not to see these taut colts
         as my reward, these yearlings testing the pasture,
                       hard as they come toward my Nissan

not to turn my head as they pound past,
         hard not to angle the mirror
                       to watch them cruise down my shoulder,

too hard, really, when I await them like crocuses,
         search for their shadows
                       as others do the groundhog’s, and suddenly

here they are, the boys without shirts,           
         how fleet of foot, how cute their buns, I have made it
                       again, it is spring.

Hard to recall just now
         that these are the torsos of my students,
                       or my past or future students, who every year

grow one year younger, get one year fewer
                      of my funny jokes and hip references
                                  to Fletch and Nirvana, which means

some year if they catch me admiring
          the hair downing their chest, centering
                       between their goalposts of hipbones,

then going undercover beneath their shorts,
         the thin red or blue nylon shorts, the fabric
                       of flapping American flags or the rigid sails of boats—

some year, if they catch me admiring, they won’t
         grin grins that make me, busted,
                      grin back–hard to know a spring will come

when I’ll have to train my eyes
         on the dash, the fuel gauge nearing empty,
                      hard to think of that spring, that

distant spring, that very very very
         (please God) distant

Special Copyright Notice

“First Warm Day in a College Town” is printed with permisson by the author, Beth Ann Fennelly. Copyright © by Beth Ann Fennelly. “First Warm Day in a College Town” originally appeared in Unmentionables, W. W. Norton, 2009.

As a default, articles in the American Studies Journal come with a CC BY licence to foster reuse and wide dissemination. This issue, however, contains several articles and images that require a less liberal licence. Together with the editors and contributors we have agreed on the exception to publish ASJ 67 without a licence to reuse. You may download and print this issue for your private use. Please cite according to the applicable intellectual property rights legislation. Should you want to reuse or republish parts of ASJ 67, please get in touch with Göttingen University Press to negotiate an individual licence.

Suggested Citation

Fennelly, Beth Ann. “First Warm Day in a College Town.” American Studies Journal 67 (2019). Web. 22 Jun. 2024. DOI 10.18422/67-07.


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