It was Valentine’s Day, a blind date,
and on the sidewalk, angry since I was late,

she sat astride the leather suitcase,
chainsmoking, frowning, wearing a lace

camisole, her blonde hair tied in a band.
I gave her my hand.

There followed the dizzy abbreviated spring
we were in love, flattering

our nervous unhardened animal
natures, knowing more the rise than fall

of love, or what we named love, having no better word.
Virgins are of course absurd,

say those who have forgotten the rest,
the French curve of a teenage breast

and all the destruction that follows, in bed.
Blossoms marked the spring of the dead,

the war stalled in the jungles of Vietnam,
the arrowy flights of SAM

missiles through the newspaper half-tone,
and, each night, her throaty voice on the phone.

Then she was gone, pregnant, to another life
from which she called years later, wife,

mother, unhappy in her tract house, wanting
something that could be no more than haunting.

What if we had exchanged rings,
bought station wagon, barbeque, a hundred things

for that life she knew the blueprint of
in the dull, resistant suburb of love?

How soon would I have packed to go?
I think of her sometimes. I don’t know.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 20 Number 7, on page 36
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