by Abby Minor


CRABGRASS UP AROUND THE electric poles where bee-fly orange street lamps stutter into indigo
 skyfall and it’s summer on Pallant Avenue in Linden, suburban subterranean where every bicycle
and popsicle and Yiddish slur whirs ever on the edge of entry or escape, the half-bit yards
where they used to sit out on stoops and smoke their wacky first-generation jokes, pass
sacks of flour through the hedge, where English vamped with Russian, Polish, mostly
black on the other side of Route 1, the fake-out where no one ever exactly got the hang
of a dream that fell funny and bunched in places, wrote itself in white-out steam

above the Exxon refinery’s brickwork stacks—

but what do we know?  We’re kids, it’s summer, we’re black&white & white & Jewish or
 skyfall, we’re playing hard at the end of a century on a shabby street of disappearing
houses, late GI Bill bungalows with narrow sidewalks cracked and evening wraps its street-
 lit arms around us and our mothers laugh: we’ll get arrested if we take pictures of you like that!

This might have been the hour of the distant click: how, dumbly, our desires begin
 to reveal themselves as history, how quickly continents spin off and jam, then fuse
 before we notice we’re on earth. Look: how a few fluorescent stars cue in as we buzz and run
 from room to room—this might have been the click or just before—and falling
 fiercely on the living room floor we lounge, demand, and swoon: we’ve made our-
selves women and we want our picture taken. Call us slick-sleek, mad and sizzle

swift—we’ve seen the stills, we know the drill,

there’s a way to become a bomb. Call us

 deranged, how we’ve spent the dusk

undressed/redressing, obsessed in the dim bedroom. Watch us jockey around the dresser                   
 mirror tender like the moths that singe their wingtips at the bulb outside. How our own               
 reflections are a kind of mesmerizing glow and we are towed. Overhead the Newark jets
 pass like a dark heartbeat, a blink of red, and here in the hot azalea crush of after-evening  

at the windows, fuchsia blossoms fading into fuchsia-burnt beyond the sills, four
 girls are whipping their grandmother’s tossed-off scarves from drawers, spilling
 silk and rayon on the bed in pools of huge blue and copper stiff, the slim electric
 mauve, the patterned taupe and gold, the sheer, the swift and twisted, cinched
 and double-wrapped and safety-pinned, suggested—what, exactly? The runway’s
 pulse, desire? Pageantry’s unending surfaces, or just the color-clustered cool, the dreamy kill
of the inscrutable, the thrill of being disappeared within a dress progression,

blitzed at just the moment we built bombs.

Were we pilots? Did we confuse one runway with another? When our mothers turned around,
looked casually down at us and whooped, Yeah right! We’ll get arrested for child pornography!    We knew
 enough to be flattered, enough to be pissed off; this might have been the hour we first believed
 that to be sighted was our most beloved right. We knew enough to crave the click stop, the clinquant     
rush, the flash of light: to pose and to explode, our picture shot and dropping sheer, our picture

taken, taken, taken. But no one took it. So I’m still here.



              —After C.D. Wright’s “Remarks on Color”

1. although the history of the United States shows acts of velour and courage
2. although any of various fabrics with a pile or napped surface
3. I don’t care if you’re red, white, pink, or purple
4. it has become clear that some students celebrated Halloween in a manner that

offended others

5. have you ever looked up your Congressional District representatives? 
6. shit, man
7. mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming
8. smoke gets in your eyes
9. with not only the gays but with other races as well
10. pickin’ and strummin’
11. if you lived here, you’d be home by now
12. if you homed here, you’d be alive by now
13. the students fold their hands and tell it straight: they only make the bad guys

black so that we know they’re bad

14. steam heat and green radiators
15. dung deliveries in the campus gardens, windows plugged with lead
16. think of all the humid underpants, the separation of church and state
17. the black kids and the Americans
18. something about little children walking hand in hand
19. do you feel safe here?
20. these disturbing behaviors involved expressive rights protected  

under various federal and state laws

21. I don’t really know what needs to be changed
22. in yoga class the instructor told us to imagine we were in France
23. leaving you to sing your own lullaby    
24. paint colors, Miracle Whip vs. mayonnaise
25. I am a woman of promise educated for a life of distinction
26. please prepare Godiva hot cocoa with milk only
27. the University writes:
28. costumes that involve blackface are always offensive to someone
29. (velooour, velooour, velour velour velour, ve-lour, one, two, three, four)
30. reflect for a moment on the value of diversity
31. garbage bags are not luggage and are not allowed under the bus
32. (O special invisible, O beloved nothing, storm door and mosquito netting,

to thee I sing?)

33. the self-help book says the real challenge is to be peaceful, to be who you are
34. there’s some fluff in my brain picked out from the folds would send me

into clarity overdrive

35. that video
36. in which Morgan Freeman says the solution is to stop talking about it
37. and the class goes wild
38. it
39. trauma is characterized, above all, by the absence of language
40. the fox who thinks he’s a chicken wakes up and wonders
41. why do I have blood on my teeth
42. why toothsome chickens at the door
43. to celebrate reunion, we’ll stand in front of the restaurant

    and turn away beggars

44. we are a good-natured people,
45. misunderstood


Back when we thought Coffee Coolattas were the height of chic, when the air was all a pageant
of mulched azaleas, all buckled sidewalk and smolder—back when we didn’t know
enough to know that everything we thought was glamorous contained the murder of
the Real—Just scream as loud as you can, our big-mouthed mothers said,
and don’t get farblondzhet!, when they sent us down to the food store and we had to run
wild-eyed past the man who slept on a bench in the park, run through stinking ginkgo,
blistered jelly-sandal slap to the Linden Plaza, into the cool vanilla
of a Hallmark store that sold porcelain angels in pink and brown
where Princess Di glowed creamily at us from every checkout aisle
where we bought little things on the sly and hid them in our pastel cotton shorts;

Back when the last two of Grandma’s neighbors, next-door Esther and across-the-street José,
hadn’t yet been added to the list of Bitches and Sons of Bitches,
back when boy bands were still black and we orchestrated endless Barbie weddings
with spiked-punch plot lines and quick divorces so each of our 43 collective Barbies had a chance
to marry our single chewed-on Ken; Let’s get the rhythm of the hot dog
we chanted, and our voices hit the sidewalk like rubber bounce balls while our mothers
sat around like another species on the screen porch, scented, pendulous, and hairy—
back when going to the Met meant panting along behind your sister’s stroller
like a desert father, fishing miraculous dimes from the Egyptian room’s gazing pools;
back when we thought the period we’d get someday was named after the punctuation mark
because it came out in tiny dots; back when every grown woman friend was an Aunt—
Aunt Linda, Aunt Lucy, Aunt Jenny, Aunt Kathy, Aunt Andy, Aunt Lisa, Aunt Other Lucy—

Back then, back in the juice-box-back-seat thick of it, Aunt Claire would spell our names
in pressure-spray cheese wiz on our palms and we’d lick it off eyes closed
in the Holland Tunnel’s flickered fluorescent blur, undone by the orange salt of it, tongues
between our fingers, going sixty miles an hour underwater and thinking this would be the day
the walls crashed in, all that dirty ocean snuffing out our matching neon puff-paint t-shirts
and clip-on hair bows, this would be the day we’d become small silent stars scattered
in tons of unlit gray water, eating the dissolving letters of our own names, wondering
what ever happened with Esther and José.

HUNGER, 1979

Back from the North Sea, back from Abu Dhabi, my father adrift       
on quiet, crackling pool water, the sun shellacking him, his guns

locked in a trunk at the foot of the bed, the smallest one smaller
than a woman’s palm. This is the year someone takes a photograph

of my parents in the French Quarter, twin columns of dark smoke
and shadows caught in stride. It’s out of sight but you can feel

the Gulf nearby, the city smoldering with country boys
come to get rich drilling and brag in bars: Never tell anyone

how much money you make was my father’s only financial advice.
This is the year, back east, an island goes radioactive, the year

the cops go on strike and New Orleans has no Mardi Gras. Back
from Campeche Bay, this is the year he dove to find the leak

in a continent of flames. Bigger than a temple, SEDCO-135
collapsing into the wellhead, collapsing into the sea. This is the year

thirty thousand barrels spilled from the well every day, went rumbling
towards the Texas coast, oiled royal terns and sanderlings,

tarred the cattle egrets’ feet. The year the drill bit hit soft strata and mud
escaped into fractures, the year they lost hydrostatic pressure, the year

the well was swabbed, a kick: the year shear rams didn’t work, the year
the drill collars got in the way—the year gas fumes exploded on contact

with the pump motors, the year someone took a photograph of my father
standing on the barge, backlit by a mountain range of flame. There are appetites

I can’t understand, the hunger to float acres of concrete and steel
on the sea, to drop men to 2,000 feet and leave them there where they palm

welding torches, umbilicals taut, their bodies saturated with mixed gas,
where they feel in the dark for the next foot of pipeline, and the next. But

as a child I loved the story about the fire that burned for ten months
on the surface of the water, men dying to put it out, the living

standing on the barge, squinting, thumbs in the belt-loops of their Wranglers,
the flames echoed in their John Wayne stares and reflected, decades later,

on the backside of my eyelids’ hot horizon just before sleep.

Abby Minor

ABBY MINOR lives in Pennsylvania’s central ridge and valley region, where she facilitates Being Heard, a creative writing program that honors the voices and imaginations of her county’s elders.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Weave Magazine, CALYX, So to Speak, and The Fourth River; a chapbook is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.


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