by Robin  Chapman

In first grade, punching out
The cartoon speakers ballooning "Be mine,"
Laboriously copying names on the backs,
I learned who belonged to my class,
Not to leave anyone out,
And the terror and power of words— 
Whether to sign this one ‘from’ or ‘love’;

By fifth, the list mastered,
I concentrated on
The handmade art of the singled-out heart,
Folding the red construction paper in two
And cutting out half of the imagined whole     
For a boy I was too shy to speak to,
Worrying over whether I should send
The one that was too skinny or too fat;

And so it went, over the years,
The ones I sent, the ones I read,
The ones signed ‘from’ or ‘love’,
The ones that didn’t come, the ones
I didn’t send, the too-fat, too-skinny
Lopsided ones, the ones I bought myself,
While the real heart in the body beat steadily,
Keeping its faithful pace awake or asleep,
From first breath to last;
The morning paper last week to the hungry face
Of the Sudanese mother carrying the bones
Of her starving son on her shoulders,
Heart the only muscle he had left— 
No words for the courage and power in her face,
Or the terror of the world,
Though I am frantically cutting out hearts
For every one of us,
All of them signed ‘love.’

-from The Way In (Tebot Bach, 1999), copyright 1999 by Robin Chapman