I wanted to write a poem for Anne for Valentine's Day, but not about hearts. Everybody writes about hearts. I decided to write about pears. Pears are shaped like mandolins, half mandolins, without the strings and the hole where the sound goes in and resonates. They're also shaped like schmoos. Not "schmooze" as in wander around at a cocktail party and make small talk. I mean Al Capp's schmoos, little, white, blubbery, smiley things that are always happy, even when people kick them.
But then, I started thinking about Al Capp's women. They lived in Dogpatch. From the name, you get an idea of the ambiance of the place. My first girlfriend, before I really knew what girls were and was still too shy to find out with a real one, was Moonbeam McSwine. She was a brunette who wore a black minidress, raggedy at the edges. She had a pet pig and lived in a barnyard.
There were other women, too, most of them real knockouts, like Apassionata Von Climax and Stupefying Jones. The latter was played by Julie Newmar in the Li'l Abner musical. It had one run and was never revived.
I never met a real woman like Moonbeam McSwine, but I did meet Anne. Anne lived two lives. She moved back and forth, between the Blue Ridge Mountains and New York City, so she was sort of Moonbeam McSwine and Appasionata Von Climax all rolled into one, but don't tell her I said that. She was the perfect woman for me, even though she didn't have a pet pig. People said we were complete opposites and would never stay together.
We talked about it in the car on our way to the writing workshop, which came up before I got one word of the poem down, so maybe I'd get her a CD of romantic music instead.
"Turn here," she said. "That's the way we went last time. It's shorter."
"No," I said. "I'm going the way I always go. The way you told me to go."
"I told you to turn back there."
"You told me to go this way the first time the Interstate was closed for construction. There's no difference. It's the same distance. It just doesn't take as long the other way."
"No, it's shorter," she said. "You know, sometimes you're just, just."
"Just what?" she asked. "Just obstinate."
"Well, I wonder who I learned that from."
"From your father," I said.
"No," she said. "I think I learned it from someone I've been a lot closer to these past few years." So when we got to Barnes and Noble, I bought her a grilled cheese sandwich for Valentine's Day.