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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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How I Met Him

He was the guy on the counter

throwing his arms about

in the bar off Market Street,

where every Friday they hung

     politicians’ effigies in the windows.

               ’Til the war.

I knew something about him

     already, since he was in uniform.

They all were, though the war

had ended three days before. They had to.

     Some skins take a while to shed.

Three days after the Japanese surrender,

and he’s up on the bar celebrating

to beat the band, while Edna, Mary, and I

     cheered below wearing the best we had after

four years of war: Mary bold in red, me in my

     sleek blue silk, and Edna like a

     whole bouquet of flowers, yellow,

     pink and white. Actually, Edna and Mary

               cheered; I watched.

I’d seen

a lot of drunk soldiers, over

     the past few years; a lot of soldiers

celebrating, those past few days. Something

out of sync, something incongruous,

stopped me: that man on the bar

     —that man on the bar—

               did not make sense. Like a head from

one photograph pasted onto the body     

     from another. I took a step backwards, then another,

till I’d backed myself into the hall to

     the ladies and the gents. From around the corner,

               I watched.

 

After they got him down from there

     he said to me, “None of them

     will marry me. I asked them all,” he said,

     “and they all said no.”

I said—what got into me?—I said,

“You didn’t ask me.”

He looked at me. “You weren’t here,” he said,

     “or I would have.”

“I was here. But you didn’t see me.”

He put an elbow on the table.

     “I do now,” he said.

That’s when I really looked at him and saw

the way he looked at me:

a straight gaze, and steady. No leer, no bravado,

     just himself.

Gray eyes, not blue, beneath brown hair.

I wanted to reach out my hand and touch

the small mole at the point

     of his jaw, below his right ear.

He was talking, while I watched the

straight flat bone of his jaw move above

the straight strong curve of his neck.

Why was that so beautiful, the way

     those two lines met? But

               he was talking.

“What’s so down about a guy

wanting to get married? I thought

that’s what they wanted, women.

But they all said no.”

Tears in his eyes.

So I said, “That’s because you go about it

all wrong.”

“That so?” he said.

“It helps,” I said, “if you know them,

     first.” I could not have told you why

     I was grinning. But I certainly liked the way

his smile moved his mouth.

“Then will you show me how

     to do it right?”

So I did. It took several months, but I’d say

by the time he appeared at my door

with the roses,

he wasn’t doing at all badly.

Whenever I say, Remember that night we met?

     he says, “Oh please, don’t remind me.”

He blushes nicely,

     right up to the hairline.

Now, how was I going to explain all that

     to our kids?

 

“Actually,” Noreen said, “you’re not doing at all badly.”

“Thanks, kid.” But then, you don’t know

which parts I’ve left out, and I don’t know

what I’ve forgotten. And then there’s this:

     you’re not my kid.

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