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.