We slipped out the screen door
and broke for the woods, me
in birthday finery, my felt
circle skirt with poodle
applique, the glow
of my Mary Janes dulling
under road dust. You
in a washed-out blue
dress, waistline riding high,
your brown eyes salt-swollen
under straightcut bangs.
We left behind: a pastel cake
with candles undisturbed,
a cascade of ribboned presents,
and four giggling girls.
I don’t remember what they said
to make you cry, Gerry, or how
we passed the hours till we were sure
they’d gone. that day blurs
into others, when we scavenged
for tadpoles in the mudbottoms
of ponds, scooped them,
wiggling, into mayonnaise jars.
Rummaged through your grandma’s
vanity and draped ourselves
in her rosary beads. Blundered
through poison ivy. tracking yelps
from a sack of discarded puppies.
We vowed we’d be friends
forever, who could know
how fast we’d drift. You
into the arms of that gangly
boy, his quiet ways far removed
from your dad’s fierce bellows.
when our kid noise woke him
midafternoons, back sore, brain
numb, from night shift
at the aircraft plant. While I
discovered books that teased
me with worlds I meant to claim.
Michelangelo’s David in polished
marble. Parisian cafes and the odor
of strong Gaulloises, red flags
flying in Beijing.
I left you there, in that so small
town. If I returned, would I find you.
the incarnation of your mom
when we stopped to see her
at R&S dress factory. Steam rose
from hot pressed cotton
where she sat, hemmed in
by clothes racks. Bent
over a sewing machine, sneakered
feet pumping the treadle, her practice
fingers smoothing bunched
fabric to get the seams
straight for the dressed-up
girls at my party.
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