Oct/Nov 2004 Poetry Special Feature

Don’t Let It Die a Virgin

by Kevin McGowin

Don’t Let It Die a Virgin

Lisa and I made a fort that summer,
Way back behind the houses and the garden
With the rhubarb patch at the end:
Way out where the folks couldn’t see us.

We were full of great ideas.
We imagined scenarios in which our fathers
Would be slain in their suits by flocks
Of wild geese, and we dreamed up equally absurd

And violent films, or TV shows—most of which
Have now been filmed, or have happened
In real life. I guess we had our fingers on the pulse
Of the New Horizon, though lots of others did too;

But every generation thinks it’s the Lost Generation,
And we were bored. By August, me and Lisa’d
Taken to smoking her mother’s cigarettes,
Long and tarry and smelly, and Lisa could blow

Smoke rings. I couldn’t. She’d put one up there,
And say, "Don’t let it die a virgin!" and we’d stick
Our cigarettes through it like cocks, and giggle.

And then she’d kiss me,
Pressing me down into the rhubarb and my pulse
Would quicken: desire, the might-be of getting

Caught, the horizon I saw from my pinned-down side
Spanning out in frontiers of pinks and off-pinks.
Now, I can hardly remember the details of all that,

Only that I didn’t let it die a virgin,
In any case,
And to this day I associate the scents

Of cigarette smoke and sex—those and chlorine,
Of us swimming and laughing in the neighbor’s pool
Before going in, with the sun going down,

Trying to get it all off.


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