Wednesday, January 30, 2008

California 1955

grandma fyrne stands in her pale blue flowered
cotton dress over soft saggy breasts
gray brown hair crimped around
her tender face of wrinkled waves

next to her is grandpa ole
he is thin, erect, mouth puckered
eyes brown and penetrating
glasses cover the intense gaze

reaching for the bottom grated step of the train
dust swirls over the tracks
obstructs my nose and becomes
a swarm of gnats in my eyes

i trip and fall to sharp gravel
it digs into my naked knees
my brown cardboard suitcase opens
the violet velveteen dress curtsies before me

welcome to sacramento
dirty, dusty, and ugly to my vision
grandma and grandpa amble to
our family now standing on the faded wood platform

no hugs, no kisses, a smile from grandma
grandpa takes dad aside and speaks
out of reach of our ears
mom frozen as hard as rock

grandpa ole and dad walk around the clapboard station
mom and grandma talk about pressure cookers
canning tomatoes, visiting aunt helen,
and uncle guy at the turkey farm

i am sweating in my yellow
sleeveless cotton shirt
the drips rolling down my back
into orange plaid seersucker shorts

blood and dirt clog the cuts on my knees
black flies buzz around like they are pieces of meat
my mouth is dry as rough towels
that have waved from a worn rope clothesline

my three sisters begin to chase each other
around the wrought iron bench
no mind to the couple holding hands
as though handcuffed to each other

a pale green plymouth rounds the corner of train station
through the windshield under the visor i see
dad with his right hand on the steering wheel
his left hand out the window dangling a cigarette

a black chrysler turns the corner next
grandpa ole drives to the platform
his body erect and mouth pursed
ready to pick up grandma fryne

my sisters and i climb into the back seat
of the green box-like car
mom sits silent in the front seat
ready to find a small pink house with peeling paint

we drive down dust blown streets with
kids playing in their yards under orange trees
dogs bark at the striped chippies
the scent of roses everywhere

~first appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review (Fall 2007)

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