Grey Jitterbug, et al

Grey Jitterbug

Firm grip, creased and sagging,

clasps my bare shoulders and

pulls me in,

wrapped up

in stuffy cologne musk.

Grey wires from stubbly chin protrude

acupuncture needles of relief into

my forehead

As the hands,

which have been slithering to tenderly cradle the small of my back,


to brush aside my bangs and whisper

“you’re beautiful, you know that?”

Hungry aggressive lips, sharp chin,

dig into my:

tense face, wide strained eyes,

gouging out thin red scrapes along my pink cheek flush

and a little line of spittle

connects his rough folded face to mine.

I instinctively pull my shoulder in

compact and slide my shielding hands deep

into back pockets,

eyes wide in mock eagerness,

I take a tender step backwards and


titanium walker

with tennis ball feet beside a table where a man

is shakily spooning noodles from his Styrofoam cup

down his face and crumpled grey polo,

unfocused eyes missing the connection to his loose lopsided lips

sending a matzoh ball sloshing and

colliding on the tablecloth,

past my grandfather’s loafers as it totters past us

across the cold linoleum floor of Steve’s Deli.

Gaze returns to my grandfather’s

proud leer,

appraising tight black pants and exposed shoulders of his little princess.

I read your

conservative financial business magazine

open in the bathroom to a page about nudity.

You told me you were a hotshot waiter at a camp

when you were my age

you caught the eye of the director’s daughter,

who, although many years your junior, had you as her dance date.

You say you had no choice, but I can see the blaze of yearning

to dance again with young girls

when you cup my chin and ask me to jitterbug

rubbing your stubbly face near mine as your breathy whisper in my ear

tells me how to move.


He plays piano as I work, rhythm

choppy and juvenile

blues rifts vibrating through the floorboards.

Earnest dedicated notes

when he doesn’t know I am listening.

Perhaps he would lose a little worry if he knew.

Concern embedded in his overripe frown

his arm extends to clasp onto my back.

Cling and say my name,

over and over,

waiting for a response to gauge a listening presence,

waiting sigh, so melancholy.

Wide, receptive face listens

as I tell him how I wish I could waste time with him,

draw like we used to:

calendars, comics, dragons, warriors, elves.

I promise: soon, again soon.

His light intrusive palm

detaches from me,

steady plunge into back pocket khaki stitching:

fourth grade class homework free pass,

a gift he says, laying it on my lap,

so we can play cards again.

Rehobeth Beach House

My mother’s cold hands

slid my eyelids shut

as the screen door clattered

behind me

An unfamiliar sickening sour smell.

Frigid sour-milk yellow

fingertips, too thin to capture my gaze

away from pools of vomit

on the carpet.

Plaster holes, destroyed screens

lurking wet stench oozing

While my dad made a phone call.

I kicked around minutes in the coarse gravel next to my maroon duffel

in the salty summer stagnant air.

I watched a bunny skitter across the dry grass, passing by the white porch

With punctured

porch screen that used to

keep out the mosquitoes as I put together

1000 pieces with Aunt Jan to form a bunch of Kittens in baskets

smiling up from the table.

On the boardwalk I ate long greasy fries cooked in

bubbling peanut oil

that would scald your skin with fine

white droplet marks if it splattered.

I ate so many fries, coated in hot

dripping red tomato, sugar and salt,

and the ocean’s briny tang stung my

nose and throat

making my little chest hack.

I empty the sand from my shoes on the step outside the

creak clatter screen door.

When I push it open

just Clorox and American cheese.

With my back pressed against the plaster-patched wall

the heavy fumes cloud my eyes

I blink so hard I can’t remember.

Unleashed Steel

In a yellow house

my father sat

on roughly grainy carpet

small fingers stumbling over

smooth metal model

titanium, aluminum fused tingles of excitement

In a room of whirring beeping monitors,

his father sat

with headsetted men

and combined intent to soar.

From his seat he etched calculations

into air

steely, precise

despite his big belly hoho laugh

this must be exact

for so much at stake.

Months away for this,

so no single rupture or pucker

in his strand of thought

can escape.

He sees that error would be

waste, leaving matter lost

in rubble orbiting the earth.

His father left the spot of yellow

peaceful in his early morning departure,

in perfect place amidst groomed green blades,

creamy golden sky glow.

His mother’s hand raised

in a wife’s wave

fingers twirling softly in the air for hours afterwards.

Already missing the months,

dreading cold sheets beside her lonely darkness.

My father took apart his father’s space shuttle,

layers at a time

learned precision

in the motion of his father’s faraway phantom fingers

observed in grasped moments every few months.

when his mother

dripping words, angry with loneliness

in drippy liquor haze

returned to airy smiles.

Left to his thoughts and

shiny models,

rich rumbling chest pounding at memories

of watching

giant machines lift up.

Joyce Freitag
Age 17, Grade 12
Hunter College High School
Gold Key

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