was painted a mud color
no boy would ever want to visit,
much less stay in for even a minute—
even Sara hated it but she had no choice.
Sara’s Grandma Josie, all pock-marks
and low self-esteem, had a baby boy
when just fourteen. Her papa gave her
three choices: commit the sin of all sins,
give the baby away to childless folk,
or live in her car, she ain’t got no home here.
Josie’d baptized her dancing shoes
wrapped around a local boys back,
his eyes closed the whole time,
hers wide as the face of a gibbous moon.
She never even told him what’s what,
just went away for a while, then came home
Josie thinks about that baby every single day.
When she had Sara’s mom, that lesson
was ground into her right from birth,
soon as she could understand yes and no.
Still Sara came too early, to barely a woman
anyway, hence a curfew you wouldn’t
even give your dog, and clothes that said
if you look at me, you are downright dumb.
Such is life in the Misty Acres Trailer Park,
with double-wide accommodations for all invited
and a mud-colored room for shy Sara,
her face the fluttered shadowing of a spinster.
Annie’s the new barmaid in this podunk town.
She’s on shift, wiping happy hour spills,
nails clicking against the bar top as she makes
it all nice for the dinner rush. There’s a joke for ya—
six people on a Friday night, she just hopes one tips good.
Her old man thinks he dumped her here and left
for good. She’d prayed on many a shooting star
for it to happen. Gotta get her things in order
before she lets anyone know—mama and daddy
can’t see her in old clothes sullied to bled-out gray.
And though barns lean into a future they’ll never have,
there’s kindness here. Another month or so and the sideways
looks will disappear. Annie won’t remember when
she didn’t live here, second floor of the boardinghouse,
faded beige wallpaper with fat white roses, lovely
armoire, no closet, no rules, no boozers creeping
around at night, rough hand over her mouth,
the smell of breath mints and bourbon,
nothing to do but watch the stars spend their last light
on her windowpane. Here in this town
the days and nights heal, crows weave themselves
into autumn reds, circle the alders in winnowing light.
Blossoms litter the breezeways, left there
for their loveliness, and lovely Annie, also left there,
out in the field on break, plaiting clover into crowns.
Ghetto Heroes Square of Lost Gloves
Sixty-eight metal chairs placed precisely
in the square surrounded by cafes and tenement
apartments, the odd hotel, bell-shaped streetlights
and bright orange crosswalks, a place for tourists
and those living commonplace lives.
In summer, the dark of rust
against gray cobblestone looks like wood,
ancient as the doors on any church where
almswomen lean, their silent prayer for change
much like the silent prayers sung in fear
by those now called Heroes.
Randomly in sunlight they take on
a quiet emotion, a heart-feeling of sorrow,
even if history has stolen its way from you,
landed elsewhere. You feel it here.
In winter, this becomes the Square of Lost Gloves.
Look up into the wind, feel the gentle whoosh
of snowflakes land on your lashes. Your cheeks redden,
one hand in the pocket of your lover—out to smell
the beauty of weather with you before going in for a coffee.
One glove is always dropped without fail, in the exchange
from lover to loved, from parent to child.
One glove placed upon a heroes’ metal chair as you touch
the cold iron. Snow camouflages all, does not call out
as you turn to leave. One glove placed upon the hood of a car
as you wait—for those having private conversations
with many years passed.
Nuns in coats and watchcaps gather them
for those less fortunate. They are collected,
make their way into baskets, wait like limp dolls
until claimed by anyone, their prayers for summer mix
with all other prayers, and are heard just the same.
Soon it will be the Ghetto Heroes Square again, warm hands,
sad hearts, metal and rust, cobblestones shining in sun.
Jane Doe on Page Six
Her hopes for happiness had the lifespan
of a moth caught in a streetlight,
ancient as the cobblestones
beneath her. She had
no expectations, just that
the absence of stars on this windless
night would not point anyone
toward her frozen breath or scarf,
knitted in solitude in front of a fire
built for two—never to be for her
and a partner, her constant
and ever-present sadness.
Blackened rain drummed a concerto
along the curb. Strangers hurried
by with dark umbrellas and dinner plans,
she had neither—the rain like tears
confirmed she was a nothing, as starless
as the sky. As seasons aged, so did she.
Why not humble herself into the tedium
of the river and pray for forgiveness,
her bruised, hollow self to be looked at,
discussed, thought about for a moment
at least, then forgotten, as ice melts into
a discarded drink in the fade of winter nightfall.
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” was published by Kelsay Books. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).