Once in a smooth gray sheet of drying cement
in front on a campus convenience store
so like the surface of a placid pre-dawn lake
I etched “Charles Loves Liz” with a sharp stick,
a girl I had a crush on,
the graffiti a confession,
a declaration to the world,
then fled like the vandal I was,
sneaking back every few days
to look at my work,
as if poking an aching tooth with my tongue.
Sometimes people speculated,
but nobody guessed,
who this Charles and Liz were,
but of course nobody knew for sure:
amazing the number of people with those names.
Later everybody talked about Barbara Cook
coming back to her student apartment
to find Liz in bed with Reed Jones,
a campus scandal for a week or two.
Just before the school year ended,
I remember seeing Liz walk over the graffiti,
fingers laced with Roger Castleman’s,
my jealousy just as tangled as those hands
with the relief that at leastI hadn’t gotten a tattoo.