Upstairs our parents’ smoke
curled into cursive, floated out
the open window, with bickering
over Gabriel Heatter’s War,
Ah, my friends, the news is good tonight
until mist haloed just lit half moon
street lights and someone’s mother
bellowed through fire escape bars,
Time to come in.
So we left behind the chalked boxes
those scrawled rows on the sidewalk
filled with names of men
we might marry: Dwight, Cary,
And under them the number of kids
we might bear: egg-shaped zero
to ten and where we might live:
Mandalay, Shangri La, Timbuktu or Tibet,
names learned by rote in geography class,
syllables we rolled on our tongues
like exotic fruit-shaped candy.
We fluttered like breeze buffeted
butterflies over our cemented
futures, which would streak, gutter bound
with the next rains. We would return to
our stuffy, overcrowded apartments
forgetting the colors of bridesmaids’ gowns:
azure, cerise, mauve, magenta—
colors we’d never seen but heard swirling
in radio ads before we had TV.
From They Abide (March Street Press).
Used here with the author’s permission.