The Good Girl Exhibit

Summer is abloom,
And we make our way
Through the steady stream
Of side-walk passers-by,
to the small mom and pop,
A rail-road station of
Sometime yesterday
Where the young cashier girl
Bids her mothers wishes.

Old men carry in their canes,
Coffee extra black, ma’am,
And she taps the sugar bowl empty,
I observe, my eyes dancing among
The shelves of jarred jelly and
The lemon-spray scent of
Wood rotting, steady drip-drop,
Ceiling leaking like a faucet,
A dust-bunny brine of surplus treasure.

And my grandmother,
Never young in her rubber sandals,
Bobby-pins swimming the net
Of gray on black,
I watch her hands, wrinkled but steady,
Examine a can of beans,
Twenty-five cents, you can’t beat that,
And I swat at a lone knat,
His legs kneading a path through my arm hair.

I remember the days of my girlhood,
how my hands would finger
the magazine display shelves
Against the roaming eyeball
Of my fathers’ inhibitions,
Like a microscopic memory,
I’d carry the captions and headlines
Home with me: ten days to new you,
How to drive men crazy in bed,
New fall fashions, blond-lady in a red mini.

Hidden between my breasts,
Two flat areolas of immaturity,
And the thrifty feel of my wool sweater,
I’d slide those secrets of sophistication
Into my closet, two shelves below my shirts,
Three boxes back where the words gathered,

Because virgin Christian girls
Weren’t supposed to wear tight blue jeans,
Writing poetry under maple trees,
About backseats and football game bleachers.
We were never supposed to know
The six steps of a sizzling romance,
Twenty rules to a healthy sex life,
And of the one-night stands in Spain.


(First appeared  in All Things Girl in 2009)