I Want To Tell You Something / The Picture Continues

- by Erin Knowles


I want to tell you something,
here, on this fleeting screen
so that you will see a sort of picture
and maybe you'll fall down a little
to share a cup of vinegar & chocolate with me.

You probably have an aunt who lives here
or a guy you used to bowl with or a lover
you caught a fever from. I never knew any different.

It starts with abandoned automobile factories, all broken and huge and oily.
Do you see the tall concrete stacks pouring smoke into the sky?
the choppy blue green lake punctured by stretched, sun-bleached peers?
a handful of silent, round-bellied fishermen who claim to throw the catfish back?

On a day like today, when the yellows, blues, reds, greens mingle in an autumn breeze,
the place where I grew up reminds me of a toy city,
the way that toys in their toy cities cannot fathom bigger places.

Bigger places where movies come from
or where arms sweep fast and faces sneer, money on the minds
of millions of robed bodies maneuvering underground.

Bigger places where women own seven pairs of very expensive
phrenology charts, where it's like we were never monkeys,
never lighter-brained, manipulating those bamboo tools.

This littler place starts with Stroh's Ice Cream shop on Jefferson Avenue
where the florescent air wafts too sweet and I nod to the old woman
standing in front of me in line. Her fried hair spits tightly around her scalp
and her puffy cataract-laden eyes ooze blue irises.
She orders a jar of butterscotch sauce,
says there's none better for the French Vanilla Ice Cream she'll serve
tonight at her grandson's confirmation.

The littler place, this picture I want to show you, continues
with bars, bars, bars.

The pockmarked teachers inside of them will tell you
about the town being in the Guinness Book of World Records
(there are more bars here, per capita, then there are churches).

I find myself in either a bar or a church & the bars around here
are the kind where you can get tornado drunk, oblivion-whirled, masterfully distanced
from Wyandotte, MI. It's no a mystery why we'd want to be
gone from this place. The factories terrify. The butcher shops
employ baby-faced boys who wipe blood on to their wrinkled, white aprons.
Those boys got a good percentage of my junior class pregnant.
They sang with me in the choir --

Our Father who art in Heaven
Hollowed be Thy Name

We sang in the cuckoo clock auditorium, on collapsible risers,
the fat arms of our conductor jiggling in the dimly lit expanse of empty seats.

The freeze invaded us, crept over the gray concrete of my high school's steps
as we shivered after choir practice watching my best friend dizzy pirouettes
waiting for her pedophile stepfather to drive up in his junkyard minivan.

The churches fade buttery light into our toy city.

The a.m. newscasters spoke of a man from Arkansas who will run for president.

The toy city with its play-set homes and manicured lawns and array of plastic ducks
bought on some Saturday morning when the bonus check arrived
continues into this picture I am showing you.

I'm finally doing what they told me to do,
I'm writing about what I know.

There's Josh Klatt's house (the boy who I prank called for 7 years)
and there's where Mark Stockmaster and I chased the alligators
we pretended infested the sewers and there's Missy Volumenous' house,
her mom invited us over for a party one afternoon and then made us clean her basement,
and O! Remember the time that you thought I was kidnapped,
but I was just at Tony Cavatile's house,
drawing maps of China on his driveway with white stones.

& Here is the place where the bullies never got me,
this triangular, red-bricked spot where all my stuff was at.
Here is my most known home, the mangled scab of concrete on the driveway
that I fell down on and scraped my knee, comedic jack-o-lanterns dot the porch,
Mom's heading down to Arbor Drugs to get cigarettes
and Dad's far away, Grand Rapids, says he misses us
in his nightly phone call. & Here's the pink bedroom where I can be weird,
where I share a cup of vinegar & chocolate with my fabric familiars
& smooch the glossy magazine photos of men twice my age
& here I open a Precious Moments journal that my aunt gave to me for Christmas
& lift a glittery, purple pen to its peach lined pages. & Here I try
to be like Simon & Garfunkel, John Lennon, Robert Frost,
(I like the one about the fire and the ice) & here I conjure up Jesus,
wonder why his blood tastes like the wine Dad brings home from his business trips.
& Here I recall the Dungeons & Dragon's scenarios I sat beside
when the boys wouldn't let me play. & Here, with the glittery, purple pen
& the lined peach pages, I try to tell the boy who I've prank called for 7 years
that I like him. & This is the home I truly want, this fleeting page, the biggest place,
where my purple bubble lines and loopy curves exist on the lined peach pages.

This is where the picture I want to show you continues.

 

Detroit poet Erin Knowles first contributed to thedetroiter.com in March 2003. For more poems by Ms. Knowles, see March '03 past features or click here.

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