(13 January 1957 / Chatham, Virginia)

Funny Valentine

She had been a late and only child to parents
already old and set; none of us had ever

wanted to go inside that hushed house
and play with her, her room too neat, doll-crowded.

We did encourage her later, though, to enter
the high school talent contest—after we’d heard

her singing My Funny Valentine in a stall
in the girls’ bathroom, reckoning the boys

would laugh, perhaps find us even prettier
in comparison. Still, we would not have predicted

those wisteria-scaled walls, the one room
we could see from the street with its windows

open year round so that greening vines entered
and birds flew in and out—bad luck, we thought,

bad luck. By then we were members of the ladies’
garden club, the condition of her house

and what had been its garden a monthly
refreshment of disappointment, the most

delectable complaint her parents’ last
Coup de Ville sinking in tangled orchard grass

and filled to the roof—plush front seat and rear—
with paperbacks, fat, redundant romances

she had not quite thrown away—laughable,
we laughed, unphotographable—with wild restraint.

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