The Full Pulse of Happiness

posted in: Poem | 0

when i was in elementary school,
i watched girls and guys gather
in big old impalas and cutlasses
in the dirt lot behind george’s cleaners.
back then the prettiest girls in the world
worked as cashiers at the supermarket–
but the rest of them were here

walking home from the grocery,
the five and dime, the train station,
after dark my mother and i would see them:
sitting in cars parked close
together, smoking, eating donuts,
drinking beer. the girls wore
tight designer jeans and spaghetti
strap tank tops. now and then, they’d ride
down north main with their boyfriends,
streaking on lipstick and shadow, brushing
swaths of permed hair. my mother thought
it was impolite for a girl to groom
in front of her boyfriend, but i doubted
politeness could get you anywhere

sometimes the mother of a kid that lived
near my babysitter was there, and sometimes
the kid too. she was a year or so younger
than me. the mother sat in a car
while the kid stood outside drinking soda
or eating packaged ice cream. an open car window
siphoned the mother’s crimped voice:
tara, get over here. still, i couldn’t help
but envy the girl–she got to watch
and, if that wasn’t enough, they bought her
all the bite-sized pleasures a kid could bear


“The Full Pulse of Happiness” was first published in Swell and was later published in Weathered Pages: The Poetry Pole Anthology.

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