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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Proposals

How is that other girls got asked

     all the time, and me

not once? Not seriously, I mean.

But what did

serious mean? So much laughter, so many drinks, a dance

each weekend night, all because the boys we dated

     might be dead next week.

So might we. General Dewitt prepared us all for that:

the Japs might zoom in

any night, he said, as they had

that dawn at Pearl Harbor. Zeeeeooom—boom—

and nothing more. But who could believe it?

So what could serious mean?

 

“Wait a minute,” Carley said. “You mean he

     wasn’t the first guy to ask you?”

 

The first who meant it, I said. No girl

over fourteen made it through World War II in a port town

without a proposal or two—

     some sailor, leaning from a deck as the ship

pulled out, yelling, “Hey! You in the red hat! Yeah, you!

When I get back, let’s get hitched!” Or a soldier, leaning a bit too heavily

on your neck during the last dance, whispering,

“We move well together.” If you said just, “Mmm-hmmm,” he’d say,

“I know a chapel stays open all night.”

Or even, between one lift and the next on the dance floor,

“Hey, you’re good! We should oughta get married!”

But if you laughed the right way, shrugging it off,

     he’d laugh too, and that

would be that.

I became an expert at that laugh. I left before

the last dance. I never went out with a guy

the night before he shipped out. No last dates, for me.

I had enough good-byes

     at the hospital. They took all I had to give

in that department.

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