Oyster Boy Review 18  
  Winter 2003–4
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» Levee 67


Twentieth-Century Valentines

Andrea Selch

Human Papillomavirus (Genital Warts)

Great were the days when each and
Every act seemed blessed by gods,
Not guaranteed to make you
Ill, not a game of truth and dare
That had you thinking back through
All encounters, wondering which still
Lay dormant in your tissues, or

Worse, was just now waking
And would assert itself in symptoms—
Rashes, abnormal cells, too few
T-cells, its awful offspring already
Settled in the one lover you ever really loved.


Cautious in all things she has always been;
Hardly aware of how it makes her seem that she
Lists among her daily errands even
"An unexpected kiss" as if exact apportionment of love
Might afford this graying marriage a youthful glow.
Yet no prophylaxis—emotional or otherwise—can
Delay the onset of midlife dalliance:
In theory, infidelity is instinctive.
And now, catching herself about to scratch, she knows it.

Herpes Simplex II

Hundreds of times it's happened,
Even hundreds of thousands—the
Rape of little sisters by their big sisters'
Perfect boyfriends; only you can't
Estimate how many, weeks later, felt the
Sores erupting, their painful itching; and

Statistics, for all their social value, do not
Interest these girls (now, women) who must forever
Mumble the truth in time to each
Lover—the one I knew and made love to
Erred in this, and now no longer can I call myself
Xenophile—but love each year

That passes without a strange and
Weeping sore. Still sorry, though, for                 


Good things come in small packages.
Old habits die hard.
Neither a lender nor a borrower be.
Only the good die young.
Reality bites.
Real men don't eat quiche.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Even in laughter the heart is sad, and the end of joy is grief:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Hepatitis B

Half a week he can usually refrain from thinking of her;
Especially if he keeps his mind on the domestic market.
Privately he wishes it would have gone differently
And now he'd have her and the child—a son of course,
Thin and strong and with a tropical verve—
Instead of this princess wife and three obese little girls.
Too late, he thinks, then another West Indian accent turns his head.
It's missing her, he's sure, that sends him
Seeking foreign industry and sugar abroad.

Bastard, his wife calls him when he comes up positive.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus

However long you do live
I will be with you,
Valentine, sweet valentine.