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Prairie Schooner 78.1 (2004) 61-64
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Darrell's mother's red dress was chiffon
and plunged at the neckline - a sleeveless job
that cupped her breasts with an X.
I was on my way for a carton of milk
when she swaggered out on our street,
the chiffon dress first, and then her mess-
her wig à la Diana Ross was off kilter,
spider legs of mascara and blood
streaked down the shaft between her breasts.
Saturday mornings she owned our street
when like the muezzin's call from his squat minaret
she'd yell her boy's name clear as the nine strikes
of the bell from St. Agnes. I remember the long-stemmed rose
my mother bent over when I gave her the first flower
I'd ever bought from the German florist in the upper Haight. [End Page 61]
There are no long-stemmed roses
in this tundra, three thousand odd miles from my street.
But there is a black cat named Snowball
and a stooped woman who walks him on a long leash,
or winds the leash around the trunk of a sickly birch.
And Darrell is long gone like me.
Blood on the sidewalk, and no shrubs, no gardens,
no tulips or rhododendrons, like at Sal's Famous
Pizzeria where the man says,
"at Sal's there's no music, no music, no music."
Give me back my street and morning hours
of cartoons before my chores, the cold glass of milk
with the sourdough warming in the oven.
Let there be gardens in my bad old yard.
Let all the flowers from the upper Haight be
red dresses of chiffon with thorns drowned
in beveled vases, the crown of one bending a little
with the blood-gorged petals of a rose. [End Page 62]
Daido Moriyama's Stray Dog
Because you are nobody,
you see yourself in the photo,
when bird and beast find
their nest and burrow, when
lovers swap the darkness with plums,
your ex-husband standing impatient
at the 12-item checkout line
hating with pure malice the man
necklaced by a mewling child.
At this hour, a desiccated wife
imagines a long kiss,
a woman in a black raincoat
disguised as your new self,
is craning her neck back at her life.
All his life he struggled at how to ask,
unable to talk to his father.
Instead of the right questions, he learns to mimic
the musings of women.
How else does one assume a non-salaried office?
Every room and every portal framing an open window
in a house full of answers,
become creeds, fragments of truth
songs chiseled in tile. A mother's ambition [End Page 63]
turns into the rented air he breathes.
So when the new tenants arrived
with their trailers of ostentatious furniture,
he barely had time to pack.
Far enough on the back roads where his neighbors
could not see his abrupt departure, he turns around to see,
first his home and then his orange trees.
God, whose penchant for punishment is legend,
would have been kinder to zap him into stone.
But here, the ill starred and the ordinary have more
in common with the likes of him; hitched
on the muzzy edges: a footnote, a sigh.
Eugene Gloria's work appears in North American Review, Shenandoah, and Greensboro Review. His book Drivers at the Short-time Motel (Penguin) was a National Poetry Series selection and winner of the Asian American Literary Award in 2001.