Holiday 2015 - THE POTOMAC
Shirley J. Brewer
Urban Happy Hour
Kids open a fire hydrant
in our neighborhood one summer night.
Strawberry Kool–Aid gushes out. At first
we think it might be rust or blood,
all of us delirious from too much news.
Mrs. Krugel fetches a pitcher and glasses
from her pink kitchen. We toast
the end of a hot day until
city workers stop our fun,
close our surreal refreshment stand—
traces of red
still visible in the street. Calvin Krugel,
in his 80's and full of learning,
tells it this way: anything can happen
along the path of a zipper.
It's All Good
Dressed up in flannel and slipper socks
at Rita Knipper's pajama parties, we drank pop,
plucked our eyebrows, made ourselves
beautiful. Rita—my best friend—invented
a facial mousse with stuff from her kitchen:
tomato paste, mashed cucumbers,
maraschino cherry juice, Muenster cheese.
Roberta added sprinkles of cinnamon
and pepper to freshen our pores.
By seventh grade, we moved to hair. I cut off
six inches of Rita's faux-Italian curls,
leaving a ragged space
near the top of her scalp.
It's all good, she said, then
trimmed my bangs until my forehead
sported a row of dark blonde teeth.
Glued to Rita's black-and-white TV, we watched
The Mickey Mouse Club with Annette Funicello
luminous in a turtleneck and pleated skirt,
her bounteous black hair
a burst of blossom. All of us
wanted to be Annette.
After she died of MS—
her body wasted, her speech gone—
I teased my curls in her honor,
rented old Beach Party movies.
Oh, Annette, you walked in beauty.
Your hair is still a vision.
About 100 brains missing
from University of Texas
Where have all the brains gone?
Over time, my inventory
of the sadly misplaced includes keys,
earrings, my rent check, hope,
yet my brain remains in place.
Once, I left my purse on the bus,
a crime my mother equated with
stealing money from the Church.
Never let go, her fervent mantra.
Bury me with my poems, my purple
gel pens. Leave my purse on that parquet
table at the funeral home where
mourners sign in. Attach a sign:
Help Yourself. Finally, a chance
to liquidate loose Tic-Tacs, old horoscopes,
my last grocery list: ground beef, garlic,
salt (of the earth). Who needs a brain if
you've thought everything out ahead?