“Dude,” she said to him. “Hit me with your best shot!”
What she really meant was “I love you, man,
I want you to ask me to marry you.”
She hoped he would catch her drift, but—alas—
he just whacked her in the face.
Back when I was a troubadour, I had hangers-on
following me around, singing in counterpoint.
I could be getting groceries at a deli—
and suddenly they would start balladeering my order.
The only time I regretted having them with me
was the day when I was trying to propose—
and there they were behind my back, all symphonic.
He worked like a son of a bitch upgrading the lawnmower
with a loudspeaker that would pop the question
the next time she started to mow the lawn.
But the noise of the motor overpowered the loudspeaker.
I was jogging on Revere Beach Boulevard on Sunday night.
In the darkness I almost brushed past a man
on one knee in front of a woman.
Running back, I took an alternate route.
Imagine my surprise when I ran into them again.
Again he was in front of her on one knee.
They must have changed their location to start afresh.
This time I tripped over them.
His low-budget movie, the very first time he showed it,
ended on a caption: “Will you marry me, Lady Ricky?”
But the movie took such a malevolent, misanthropic turn,
Lady Ricky was out of the theater before it was over.
He had picked out the ring, had it in his pocket,
and was cleverly maneuvering the night towards
its boiling point, when two fighter jets flew overhead
and a bomb exploded nearby. They both ran for cover.
No, World War II was not declared the next day.
It wasn’t even a bomb, just some friendly fire.
Still, they never spoke about any of this again—
then seasons changed, and somehow they simply lost touch.
Originally from Moscow, Russia, Anton Yakovlev lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and works as a college textbook editor. He studied filmmaking and poetry at Harvard University. His work is published or forthcoming in The New Yorker, Fulcrum, American Arts Quarterly, Measure, The Raintown Review, The New Verse News and elsewhere. He is the author of chapbooks Neptune Court (The Operating System, 2015) and The Ghost of Grant Wood (Finishing Line Press, 2015). He has also directed several short films.