Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SIGNATURE OF LOVE, by KAREN SWENSON



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SIGNATURE OF LOVE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In missoula, someone has punched
Last Line: Beneath the signature of love on the ceiling.
Subject(s): Hotels; Love; Sex; Vandalism; Inns; Innskeepers; Motels; Boarding Houses


In Missoula, someone has punched
ML L BR into the stucco ceiling
of the motel room with a coat-hanger-end
and surrounded it with punctures
in the shape of a heart,
so that those making love below will
gaze up at the signature of love above.

But I am not making love,
and the only person I can remember loving
is a boy dead thirty years
whose face has long since been amalgamated
into all children with cow-brown eyes.

Under the heart and a lamp
made for an imaginary monastery,
I watch us in the hip boots of our fathers' galoshes
make dinosaur tracks through the swamp,
bend over jello-wobbly clumps of frog spawn
where licorice tadpoles circle inside their crystal eggs
and, as the spring warms, our hands together -

brown and speckled, grubby and scabbed -
try to catch the quick-slime leaps
of what is both fish-tailed and land-legged
among last year's cattails holding up their fruit
like frankfurters on toasting forks.

In the mirror's reflection of motel glasses,
wrapped neatly as hothouse tomatoes,
I know death has made no barrier between us
but bonded with a strength as a broken bone heals
so that I live both finned and footed,
whole as life and death
beneath the signature of love on the ceiling.





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