Fall 2017 (Volume 21, Issue I)
KAREN PAUL HOLMES
THE L-SHAPED HOUSE, PACKARD AVENUE, FLINT, MICHIGAN
I grew up on Do the Watusi on the jukebox at Angelo’s,
and a bike looping along
sidewalk and driveway—I was Andretti
but obeyed stop signs my brother chalked
on the pavement.
My Barbie wore homemade dresses,
and boys picked me because I could bat.
There was the Easter hat, carnation corsage,
on an empty stomach, wine digging a hot path—
throat to belly, while we sang, Mnogaya Leta!
God grant us many years!
My breath is Klashoff and Papazoff with rags
for shoes in winters beneath Baba Mountain.
Bortkevitch and Ryan, Russian ships
and Newcastle’s bagpipes on Saturdays,
a tailor’s even stitches, a prudish mother’s fear
of disgrace (we necked with boys anyway),
the expectation of all-As at Bentley High
and anxiety. The family cracked up
at Carol Burnett on Sunday nights
or inside jokes like calling me
Our house hid a half-acre backyard
with a rusty red swing set, woods running
way back to the train track.
We weren’t supposed to play there but waved
to cabooses and left
pennies for engines to flatten.
I sweat Baltic and Pacific salt, the sweet grit
of Great Lakes sand, the popping bite of chili dogs.
Fortunes and misfortunes have intermingled—
a lamb manga simmered all day.
Moments quiver, semi-opaque
like fruit-dotted Jell-O,
or wink like candles counting years
on the glossy frosting of devil’s food cake.