Grandma said the clubs were jumping: blues
on the jukeboxes, military men in blue
walking the streets of Okinawa for the closest bar,
ordering drinks straight, no chaser, dancing with blue
women, whose hearts unsettled on this new continent.
She said Pop-Pop was sharp in his dress blues.
When he wasn’t there, she bought her daughters
baby dolls with soft curly blond hair and blue
taffeta pinafores. The dolls’ faces strained as if
seeing themselves for the first time, blue
eyes reflected from their brown skin. A distraction
from typhoon season, crowding with its blue,
its humidity of memory – blue everywhere, that taken-for-granted
hue. How can anyone remember (that) blue?
The Madonna of the Ghetto
grease stench of fried chicken wings egg foo young
the floor sticky with bubblegum and cigarette butts
stomachs hurtling further into hunger
i wished for those tv moments
assembled at the dining room table chatting about the day
mother dons her apron and presents our all-american meal on a platter
meatloaf mashed potatoes green beans a tall glass of whole milk
instead we wait
for our $7 general tso’s special
while men dart in and out of the store for blunts loosies condoms
they curse i grow warm avoid my mother’s glare
afraid she will embarrass us like the time in mcdonald’s
her high voice perfect english telling some man about himself
unafraid or too hungry to care about the neighborhood’s myths
stray cats pigeons horses
turned into dinner a kind of alchemy
stiff crunchy chicken in a sticky sweet sauce a few tufts of broccoli
on the way home brown sauce drips from the styrofoam container
into the plastic bag
after school we visit the same store china garden
dig in pockets and book bags,
scraping against broken crayons and unsharpened pencils with eager fingers
for the sum of a fortune cookie
the thrill of our school lunches wore off
and it would be hours before our mother would come home from work
with heavy plastic bags of cans and boxes
hours bent in a cubicle
dividing herself until there was little left
we couldn’t say that after eating we’re still hungry
but tomorrow at lunch
we remind ourselves to gulp more of the cold chocolate milk
pretending to fetch snacks for friends
turning away from the principal’s suspicious eye
Winter afternoons, we walked to a brick building
without an entry in the telephone book.
There, a man filled our red plastic gas can
with kerosene, as if from his own personal spring.
I bustled my plaid uniform jumper and kicked my green-nyloned
legs, pretending to be a Can-Can dancer.
You were careful holding the canister, no swinging, no spilling,
each drop precious. At home, we huddled
around the space heater still in our coats,
shivering a little while it warmed up. Jim Gardner’s
voice a mumble in the background on the news,
then watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, rooting
for the contestant who looked the most like us,
who just couldn’t seem to catch a break
and solve the puzzle before the beep.
Time Travel: Or I go back to June 1982
after Sharon Olds
I see them:
At the public pool, my father is tanned,
bored atop the lifeguard chair.
My mother swats sunshine from her eyes,
leading in a group of children,
I see him watching her long hair
braided into a loose rope. Hair that
begged to be unraveled into waves,
Her thin girl body, her face dewy
with the day’s humidity.
Later, she hoists skirt above thighs
and sneaks through a window.
Down the street, she mounts his black
motorcycle, pats the curls escaped
from his helmet, folds herself around his waist.
They push the heat of summer
into each other’s bodies, tube socks
shimmy to his ankles, her t-shirt around her hips—
fingers slick across each other’s skin.
I want to tell her that her two children
will be of his legacy, but the only bastards among six.
The family court workers will memorize
her fast gait, her white streaks of hair, her name.
I want to go up to her before her belly rises
months later, before the skin stretches
into webs, and tell her to run. But I don’t.
I want my brother, wrinkled high-yellow with his clubfeet.
I want myself to live. So I turn away, pretend
that I don’t see their desperate lovemaking,
their desire so apparent. I cry, do what you will,
and I will live with it.
Raina Lauren Fields is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Virginia Tech. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Callaloo, The Collagist, PANK, Literary Mama, The Bakery, Tinderbox, and Emerge, among others. Her manuscript, Last Rites for Uptown, has been a finalist for the Cave Canem Poetry Prize (2014), National Poetry Series (2013), Crab Orchard Poetry Series Open Competition (2013), and Crab Orchard Poetry Series First Book Award (2013).