- Her Lawn, and: Blue-Collar Playground
Even the grass competes with her hedgesfor height. We all want to reach those eyes,touch those lips and hear her say againand again, If you let anything grow long enough,it'll hatch white flowers. I said three-footrattlesnakes would inhabit her yard, strangleus all if someone didn't mow that lawn.And we were both sincere, at least for a week,and I don't recall the last time I ever wentto bed with such a young, earthen womanwho owned her own home—these barefootprinciples, these rooms of stretched canvasand her acrylic paints—a charcoal cat, even,hungry for hands, food shaped like little brownstars. She chewed her thumbnail in the morning,a habit I hear when she walks heavy acrossdistressed oak beams—knocking over her easelwhen she grabs a white button-down shirtfrom the floor. If I were a better man, I'd fix hera four-egg omelet with Swiss cheese and thingreen scallions—serve her a dish without a checkor pencil behind my ear, help her dressas a waitress, prepare for those starched tableclothsand warm dinner plates. But I'm upstairs,half awake across her pillows, grateful andinsecure to find a woman who lets a man sleeptill one in the afternoon. Truthfully, I'm afraidto go outside, into that jungle. I know the lawnhas grown to her nose; they surely had wordsabout the potential of weeds. But when she getshome, and I'm wide awake, I'll set it up soI'm just about done when she pulls into her driveway, [End Page 111] let the smell of burnt motor oil and gasoline fillthe air—show her the beauty of a clean-shaven manpushing himself through five feet of grass.
With zinc oxide across his nose, a neighbor spreads the dogwood trees for a better view—the old Italian American who held his weight on a shovel when the family set their swing. The wrinkly man who collects branches from his lawn—fallen sticks bundled with red string. He knew the father next door worked two jobs for the shaky swing set in their quarter-acre backyard—that blue-collar playground the middle child rode on the storefront of Kmart till the mother pulled her midstride and kicking. When the father rolled home with an unassembled swing inside his truck, the children literally roared, but his wife wouldn't let her husband forget he should've used the money to repair their wooden staircase—that fucking disaster waiting to collapse! The son was born fourteen months after his sister, when doctors in the eighties persuaded women they couldn't conceive and breastfeed. It might have been then when the sister lost interest in swings, began to trap birds with white string, a twig, and an upside-down milk crate. The little boy kicked the stick of her trap a dozen times while she swore with words she heard across wooden tables of relatives, when the kids tried to fall asleep behind hollow doors. But as birds dropped to the lawn, the boy stayed with his sister—four trembling hands on the string for hours, waiting and waiting. [End Page 112]
Rocco Lungariello has had work in several journals, including Bellingham Review, New Orleans Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly. A Connecticut native, he currently lives and teaches in northwest Ohio. The poems in this issue are from the manuscript "Haunted Enough to Leave."