This is a poem I wrote years ago and recently found in one of the many boxes of paperwork I’ve lugged around from house to house in various moves. There was a dive bar near my college called the Tropicana, and as I drove past, I often wondered what the people were like inside. (Incidentally, senior year, my girlfriends and I dared to go in and were roped into a karaoke contest, but that is another story entirely.) I began to imagine what a 40-year-old mother would feel like, passing by a bar like this, and out came these words. Aside from the bacon grease and Barry (I can’t stop laughing about Barry), I’m pretty struck by the insight of 22-year-old me.
Hobart Park, 2004
It was 11 when I passed the Tropicana,
the grocery-crowded trunk rattling, clunking
(on my way home to bed so I could rise and fry the bacon, pack the brown paper sacks that lined the counter)
when I hit that bump going 40. Something broke,
shattered, something glass.
So I pulled around – it was one of those pavement-hugging, tire squealing turns,
the kind that you would see in a movie and wonder
how anyone could need a drink so badly.
I wanted something pink,
something that kicked, something with life
like the time I told Barry I wanted a child
and we left the sandy beach, tequila on our lips,
to make life in the bungalow.
My skin was smooth then, tan, taut;
if Brynn had been there (she wouldn’t have–
she was our life, our love in the bungalow),
if she had tugged upon the skin of my hands,
to watch it slowly melt back over the shape of my skeleton,
she would have been disappointed.
I had elasticity then.
But you tell me there is nothing like there here,
in this peanut shell smelling musty bar
where cowboys, rednecks leave ass marks on the stools,
George Strait, Kenny Chesney on loop in the speakers.
I’m sipping light gold bile from a bottle,
but beer has no memory for me,
not like vodka, not like rum,
not like tongue-tied cherry stems and displaced paper umbrellas
that we girls would toss gaily across the table, laughing.
I had a thin-stemmed dream, then,
perching lightly in my fingers.