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Memory from Childhood after Machado

High summer and the unforgiving
noon sun boils the blacktop. Monotony
of wind, flung grit assaulting
our eyes and ears through the open

car windows. We are escaping Brooklyn.
Behind dark glasses, my mother wrestles the un-
wieldy, ink-stained map. My father smokes
and speeds, watches for patrolmen. Ash

stars from his Luckies stream past my face,
my bare legs stick to vinyl. I'm dreaming
someplace green and cool, imagining
my father won't detour to the dog track,

my mother's face unfrowned. I am pretending
the place we are headed is not where
we are going, even though I know I am
wrong. High summer and the unforgiving

noon sun boils the blacktop. Monotony
of wind, flung grit assaulting
our eyes and ears through the open
car windows. We are escaping Brooklyn.


Red Goose

. . . the lowliest of my assigned duties was the one
I liked most, dusting off the sample shoes in three
brightly colored sample rooms each morning . . .

Tennessee Williams


Still just Tom at thirty,
he's one more unskilled laborer

clocking in and out six days
each week, his life's brief measure

of hours lost to work numbing
as the old-time sermons

his mother drags him to for spite—
payback for ungallant Sunday

hangovers — the world's largest
shoe factory
itself a vast,

cacophonous machine, rough
thunder of metal presses insistent

as migraine, shrill of whistles
that signal time to come, to go, time

to eat, to stop eating, until he
wants to retch, to lie for hours

in a shuttered room, chilled
compresses smoothing the lines

from his forehead. But that's
his sister's luxury, and so he hides

each morning, as long as he dares,
among the dazzling showroom

mirrors and high-polished shoes,
like dark exotic fruits,

displayed on stacked glass
terraces, dusting, dreaming a little.

Was he plotting already
his escape? His desertion of Rose?

I like to think he was, that
he imagined, perhaps, a landlocked

romantic's Cuba, conjuring
brown-skinned boys in straw hats,

soft lilt of Spanish — alma,
mi corazon
— on the air, machetes

gleaming hot equatorial sun.
Beyond the fields, a cool ocean,

gator green. White sail boats
like doves shimmering the horizon.