Monday, June 15, 2015




No toys, my nights and days perfumed

by wrappers, a craze among the boys

on our postwar California base.  Consumed by ghosts

of Popsicles, Dreamsicles, Fudgesicles,

I rose earlier than any boy to exhume

their casings: neon heliotrope, orange, lime.


Sour milk and chocolate-redolent, I mined

khaki trashcans: plumbed row and acre

of grassless corrugated tin humps, crammed my shirt,

combed that numb landscape, planned. 

You could trade those envelopes sticky with spills.

I stuffed them melting in my bureau until


bulging like stolen money in gangster movies

they seasoned everything. Days and nights

stank of grape, lemon, and cherry.

Sticky collars berry socks cocoa nightgowns

wrestled in my drawers. Pressed smooth, they felt like bills.

The first two hundred from my pungent store


I spent, sent for a bracelet that said

I LOVE YOU in fifteen languages. At eight

I thought that silver metal would somehow speak

the words, stowed the flagrant trove beneath my bed,

redoubled my efforts, nose-dove headfirst

into banquets of bones, cans, moldy celery cores,


came up with gold. I lived on essence,

deprived of the icy sweets in my belly full of nothing,

I sucked dry the catalog from the PX that illustrated

each pleasure and what it cost in lucky numbers.

The clunky bracelet came, bad buy at any price,

shedding its silver skin in a week.  Clear nail polish 


wouldn't stop the leprous peel of shine.

I was an optimist, bottoms up in beer bottles,

offal, rubbish.  I'd show them, glamorous through suffering. 

You'll get sick, parents warned, die of all that filth.

But what was death to the first prize of riding

my new bicycle for fifteen thousand wrappers?


I dreamt in my counting-house, bounty spread

before me on my bed, my world free for enterprise.

Now I stir up my own face cream, rent the garage apartment,

cancel paper, cellphone, tv, gather greens, sumach, chanterelles,

free feasting, grow my savings same as I did those sticky bags

the winter of forty-six, a jubilant child again.

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