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Barbara Minton

The Truth About Broken Hearts


Forget those cartoony valentines
like upended human butts struck by
perfect zigzag lightning bolts.
The real thing is nothing like that.
Think instead about a candy heart
with writing-a cherry pink one with
red letters that say U R D1 4 ME.
When it happens, it's not the sharp jab
of a sword-
it's a dull, heavy blow.
For a moment the heart just sits there
still and pink, but looking whole.
Then it crumbles, a few pink flakes
from the edges, then faster, till it
dissolves like aspirin and lies there,
a little pink pile of powder, with a red spot
here or there that used to say something
important. What can you do? You could
just walk away and leave it there. Life
as a heartless person might be easier
after all. What you'll probably do is
sigh and go get a broom and a dustpan,
sweep up whatever you can
and try to put it back together.
Only something always gets lost, so
the new heart is a little smaller, the fine
particles packed just a little harder, and
now there's only enough red stuff left
to write I M D 1.

Barbara Minton, 1996

All at Once


If you ever fall out
of love with me
please just tell me so.
Don't let me find out
a little at a time
like dying
from the fingers in.

Barbara Minton, 1996

Conditional Past Perfect


What if the day had been five degrees cooler?
Or what if the couch had not sat under the window?
What if the window had opened easily
instead of sticking so she had to brace herself
on the couch arm and pound upwards
with the heel of her other hand?
What if-oh God-she'd been a neater person,
one who found places for things
instead of letting them pile up on the couch arm
until she knocked them onto the Oriental rug,
glowing orange beneath the rosewood table,
their first real piece of grownup furniture?
What if she'd simply picked up the papers
without looking
and piled them back on the couch
instead of flipping through the pages
of the unfamiliar notebook
with the lists in the familiar hand
that detailed exactly how it was
that the world would explode
on that hot June day
with the sun pouring through
the opened window
and the little dust bits
dancing?

Barbara Minton, 1996

Once when I couldn't sleep


someone told me to think
of nothing. That's harder
than it sounds. When I tried
to have a mindful of nothing,
something always crept in
and messed up the purity of
nothing-a flea or a gnat
of something tickling my sweet
nothing. and then the tiny
something reproduced itself
and swarmed and hummed
and crawled all over my
vast expanse of nothing
till I had a mindful
of everything-cheddar cheese,
Pontiacs, minnows, real estate,
bus tokens, toilet seats-my mind
became a junkyard
and sleep wasn't interested
in hanging around
a place like that.

Barbara Minton, 1996

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