War Zone of the Heart
the boys paid Terry to dance with Mary Agnes.
Her buckteeth opened in shock that such a hunk
tapped her on the shoulder of the yellow dress
her mother made, one that couldn't
mask the craters on her face.
Mary Agnes in the bathroom stall listened for news
of sudden popularity. We smirked in crinoline skirts,
talked a little too loud, let her know it was all a ruse.
We never knew that moment would set her
in a minefield where, for the rest of her days, she'd tread
lightly on invitations, searching for the trip wire.
We never knew
that mortars would rain on our hearts—JoJo at the mirror
powdering her nose never guessed she'd be flopping tin
in the rolling mill, Wheeling Steel spilling her in a row
house by the river. Nancy, smothering in the stench
of cabbage and onions, would forget those nights
when Bobby Vinton crooned Blue Velvet. Rita, in a cage,
shook her booty to The Monkey for dollar tips at after-
hours clubs. Terry crawled through the nightsoil of Nam;
Danny, into a knife outside the VFW. AIDS shortsheeted
Elaine, her name in the obits at thirty-three. Names
that later showed up on The Wall never mentioned
Lena's, nailed to her own in Wayne's pay-day drunk.
At the feast of Tet
elephant grass ran with blood. Concertina wire shredded
kneecaps. Bouncing Betties aimed for the heart. Terry
took an arrow in the chest, a Flechette, on Valentine's Day.
Claymores cracked overhead with the thunder
of night's laughter crashing on the dance floor.