"I Love Barbie Taylor. T. Mc."
(graffiti spray-painted on a since-demolished wall in Arlington, Va.)
It's official now. T. Mc. no longer
loves Barbie Taylor—not for the commuters
on I-395 who for eight thousand yesterdays
read passion in three-foot schoolboy script.
Today the bulldozers came, and romantic
words became rubble, to be cleared away
for the ritual mating of asphalt and earth.
But what of real love? Did Barbie and T.'s
live past demolition, or die long before it?
Did T.'s love leave the wall? Was Barbie's ever there?
When Barbie laid azure or emerald or onyx
eyes on T.'s declaration, did she roll them
in ecstasy or embarrassment?
Did Barbie and T. find out too late
that love can squall and soil itself,
or wither in a stranger's wink, or survive
the fatal screech of cars against each other?
Or did Barbie and T., a couple not perfect
but comfortable with their familiarity,
see their wall come down with a pang for youth
so long gone, so shortly gone,
hold hands for the millionth time, and wave
at T. Junior walking with his first girlfriend?
If the earth has an answer, the dozers drown it out.
Their burring voices shake the overpass
where "Todd Loves Tiffany" appeared last week
and echo in the park, rustling the oak tree
where Isaac has loved Maude a hundred years.
Full Moon on K Street
The moon has your face tonight,
hiding behind black-violet veils
of clouds, coy, intimating nothing.
Like an orange outside the grasp
of a starving child, you stab my heart.
All longing is the same.
No natural light penetrates
this street; the lampposts rule.
The high-rises have mothered
them from their concrete wombs,
bidding us rejoice in coldness,
disdaining the celestial tease.
The moon has phases. Though I pray
not, you might be one. The clouds
pull tight, tight around your mouth.
The Good Fight
The English Channel surged below you,
its waves licking American bones.
It was D-Day Plus Fifty, Utah Beach,
and all five-foot-three of you
with a thousand other nurses, helmeted,
full-field-packed, clambered down
the rope ladders swaying against the ship.
The transports were like children's toys
bobbing below. Don't look down,
don't slip, your commanders told you.
Your pack will drag you straight to the bottom.
The Norman fields boomed in the distance
as the waves moaned their hunger.
Sixty summers distant from France,
the explosion was in your brain.
You take lessons on how to lace a shoe,
how to walk with a cane.
Your voice, musical as always,
lilts over the nursing center's phone:
Honey, I'm going home today.
Could you call my mom and dad
and tell them to come get me?
Mother, you climb a ladder now.
The sky is hazy above you,
a fog of dreams and memories.
The decades are your backpack now.
Please don't look down. Please don't slip.
You fight the good fight, now as then.
"I Love Barbie Taylor. T. Mc." and "Full Moon on K Street" appeared in The Bears of Paris (Word Works Capital Collection, 1995). "The Good Fight" appeared in the anthology Poetic Voices Without Borders 2, published by Gival Press.