Waiting for the Sun
in Upstate New York, smeared with Crisco
and a silver sun catcher unfolded across my chest,
I think I have it all figured out.
I’m 17 and plan to have a big house like Lisa:
three or four bathrooms stocked
with thick peach Ralph Lauren towels.
The rest, of course, is a blur—
my career, family—the how
money would hit my bank part.
I knew I wouldn’t smell like hamburgers
for a living, wouldn’t spend my days
slipping around on greasy orange tiles
at a fast-food restaurant I own, like my father,
and how he knew he wouldn’t smell of cows,
like his poor father, the farmer.
Like how my two children bemoan college
because I teach at one like some boring desk
who never moves—who sits sturdy and solid—
dust and books piled high on my back.
But they don’t see me commute
to my classroom, how I stop every morning
for coffee at a McDonald’s along the way,
lured by golden arches warming me like sunshine,
how I park in the lot like it’s time for Sunday service at a chapel,
how I don’t pray but talk to my dad
about the food trays that need to be wiped
and carried to the back.
At the green banana age of thirteen,
I pulled weeds from bean plants
in our garden one Sunday.
My dad came out to work next to me,
still wearing his white dress shirt
from church, unbuttoned, no tie, sleeves rolled up.
He moved along the row, quiet, stern,
yanked weeds as if each one another sin
trying to keep him out of heaven.
The humid summer air slumped heavy with tension,
and he finally spoke: what’s that on your neck?
I asked, what? I don’t know what you mean.
He said, the red mark on your neck. What is that?
I said, oh, I burned it with my curling iron.
He said, don’t lie to me. I know exactly what that is!
I said, I swear, I burned myself
with my curling iron!
And he stood there shrinking me
with squinty eyes, to weed size,
casting me among the kind
that crowds out flowers,
wraps around bountiful harvests
until nothing remains but starvation and ruin.
Image: Photo by Gary Houston Ghouston 18:28, 21 October 2005 (UTC), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.