The William Gilmore Simms Prize

Thomas L. Johnson


The Sign of the Mona Lisa Motel, Fallen in Camden

The signs are everywhere—the signs
of love, the signs of fall. She lies,
for instance, in a ditch near town,
prostrate on the ground and decked out
only in that revolutionary
smile of hers: the sad sweet grin
which bids a man to leave it all
for her and enter into battle.
I don' t need to spend a little
time where Merrie Englande passed
a losing day. I want to throw it
all away—the day, the year,
a lifetime—putting back that face
and staying where two lips and eyes
like those gaze out at me and speak
in loving silence, or in words.