From Across the Room

vanity

From Across the Room

I listened from across the room
her giggles and secrets
forcing my eyes to stay open
so I could hear her make
growing up sound as magic
as the parade of perfume bottles
Chantilly and Shalimar
on her dresser, I unscrewed
the shiny tops before school
to smell my future
and she never knew

She didn’t think I noticed
her or received the attention
I deserved because she was consumed
by the antics of frocked adults,
But I was mesmerized by the rapid motion
of her wrist, like a top after the string
is pulled, when she perfectly scrambled
eggs for our breakfast

She could unscramble
the mixed-up deck of Old Maid cards
that confounded my pudgy digits;
her fingers like rulers
straightened out my slippery game

She let me try on all the colored flats
that lined our shared closet
and I wanted to be just like her
knowing how to sew and unlock
the mystery of a needle’s eye
her own eyes faraway; her teenaged
tongue both bitten and requested

I did not know the safety
a sleepy little girl like me could offer
from across the room, someone
who would only approach her bed
for cuddles under the covers
after a bad dream, someone
free of nightmares that stained
sheets in a rectory far away
a dirty laundry basket
she could never take
to the basement to clean

She knew how to make
Swedish Meatballs with gravy
as fragrant as the dandelions
I brought her, how to roll Tea Cakes
in powdered sugar without cracking
the nutty dough and cracking
me up with stories told between
cola and cigarettes

She took me on my first road trip
to the cornfields of America
I never minded the hump
the heat and the hum of sleeping
on the floor in the back seat
because the promise of Howard Johnson’s
pancakes the size of a clock at 5am
made up for unending horizon
and the boring AM radio

She never trusted how much
these moments mattered
to me, her own nightmared life
of dancing with short older men
in dark confessionals
troubled her sleep and finally
she unloaded over the phone

Predicting my rejection, but this tumbling
only made me dance my own story
in studios free of secrets
what she hid became my pirouette
of caution, his collared crimes woven
like impetus and black thread
in a sweaty Danskin leotard
thrown carelessly
onto my pile of dirty laundry
before I hopped into the shower
alone and unafraid.


Image from somewhere on the internet and I lost the URL
Rapid

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