L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 4

from “Lunch at Grand Central”

For some reason, this poem makes me think of “The Fantasticks,” which I saw last night for the first time in decades. I had the original cast album when I was growing up. I still knew all the words. I knew which ones they’d changed.

She saw it happen,

she explained.

I saw it on stage last night, and as I sang along, it seemed to explain … everything. It shocks me that knowing this musical as well as I did from such a young age—in essence, having the Cliff Notes to life—I was still taken by surprise when life did what life does.

She did not deny it, just went on

speaking of the heart’s troubles,

never stopping to consider

the actual point of entry.

There are a lot of reasons “The Fantasticks” is the longest-running musical ever, not the least of which is the songs. But it’s also that the story on stage is the same story lived by every boy and girl and every parent. I never stopped to consider that every heart has trouble and that all our troubles are remarkably similar.

This morning, I’ve been thinking of the wisdom behind El Gallo’s final instruction: “Leave the wall.” Or as L.L. writes, The lungs are here. They’re separate from the heart, which, the poem reminds us, is a good thing when heart surgery is necessary. The heart goes here; the lungs go there. The wall stays.


  1. And of course she was wrong. They don’t do heart surgery from the back.

    Say more about The Fantasticks and how they relate to the poem for you? 🙂

    • L.L., maybe it’s this line from the musical: “Without a hurt, the heart is hollow” (from the song “Try to Remember.”) The poem is about a heart with a hurt–literally and in other ways, too.