Firm grip, creased and sagging,
clasps my bare shoulders and
pulls me in,
in stuffy cologne musk.
Grey wires from stubbly chin protrude
acupuncture needles of relief into
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
rich rumbling chest pounding at memories
giant machines lift up.
Age 17, Grade 12
Hunter College High School