You caught me staring at you yesterday,
or so it seemed, for you—you smiled and blushed
and all your girlfriends giggled in the hushed
and stilted silence of the lecture. They

had to have seen me staring your way too,
slackjawed (old love has always been a child),
transfixed by beauty less demure and mild
than ardent and chaotic. Seeing you,

I curbed my furtive glances (or I tried to),
and flirted with the lecture now, instead—
what was it our instructor spoke about?
The words I heard went in…and then right out.
For as you brushed your golden hair, ahead
I stared, past you, at her: the girl behind you.


J. Simon Harris lives with his family in Raleigh, NC. He is a graduate researcher in Materials Science at NC State University. Much of his poetry, including his ongoing translation of Homer’s Iliad in dactylic hexameter and samples of his translation of Dante’s Inferno in terza rima, is available on his website ( His novel, Lemnos, is available now on Amazon Kindle.”

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12 Responses

  1. Michael Dashiell

    It reminds me of an 80s song by The Police: Don’t Stand So Close to Me.

    • J. Simon Harris

      I wasn’t familiar with the song, but I looked it up. I can see the resemblance, although there are differences too. Thanks for bringing it up!

  2. James Sale

    Josh Harris is a wonderful Dante translator and this reminds me of Dante – and the accounts of how seeing Beatrice transfixed and transformed him forever. Though, of course, the irony here is ‘the girl behind you’ and notice too the amazing stretch: the echo of a rhyme five lines behind.

    • J. Simon Harris

      Thank you, Mr. Sale. It’s interesting that the poem reminds you of Dante, because a scene from the Vita Nuova actually inspired it. In the scene, Dante is staring at Beatrice, when another woman in the line of sight between them believes he is looking at her (he calls her the “screen lady”). I thought it would be a great subject for an ironic Italian sonnet.

  3. I. Warble Seduce

    Thoughts on “Unrequited Love” by J. Simon Harris:

    1. The first quatrain, filled with alliteration, the unusual opening y’s, the comical g’s, and the scattered s’s, contains epizeuxis, and ends with a carryover, which leads into…

    2. the second quatrain, where one finds excellent diction, like “slackjawed,” (a parenthetical metaphor), and a longer carryover, which progresses to…

    3. the sestet’s opening alliterative pair “furtive/flirted,” (a quick aside), a nice anecdote, and an O. Henry surprise—with concomitant break in the metre—in an effective ceffec rhyme scheme, concluding the traditional theme of unrequited love, slightly humourously and neatly awkward. Touché.

    • J. Simon Harris

      Thank you for your astute analysis. I had never heard the term “epizeuxis”, so that was a nice bonus! Being originally from Greensboro, NC, I especially appreciate the comparison to O. Henry. Many thanks!

  4. David Watt

    A very well balanced poem, and a delight to read. I am a fan of humorous endings, particularly with an ironic twist.


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