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The Lost Love Letters of Cumberland

Gerry LaFemina

I know she wrote them–Shawnda–
but don’t know (can’t know, really) whether he read them.
If not, did she just misplace these folded sheets of looseleaf–

her chubby, cursive declarations of love–or
did she leave them deliberately there

like square-winged moths on a bench downtown
slightly ruffling in the slight wind.

There are, of course, some answers I can never know

though I try to picture Andrew’s pimpled, bemused face
& close-cropped hair
not knowing if this urge when he’s around her
to touch her is love

or something . . . baser. He’s sixteen after all
so why wouldn’t he throw away those notes
that proclaim I wanna be with you
for the rest of my life until I die. I wanna have your kids?

I can’t say, but there they were
some with a lingering patina of perfume, & I gathered them up
gently, fingering each sheet

so I could fold them up perfectly again
as if they had never been read
                                             even though I had no intention
of returning them. Hadn’t I thrown away
all the romantic notes of my youth?

–the ones I wrote & never sent,
the one I didn’t receive?

A girl I loved then committed suicide & another
was born again;
                       & Shawnda
looks downward all the time & complains bitterly to
her friends. I’ve seen

her or someone just like her at the shopping mall & coffeeshop.
It always comes back to Andrew
who does what he always does

& who seems confused by her crying
& who says to her I love you & hopes he means it,

& who is like any of us in the face of that overwhelming.

Gerry LaFemina

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