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Oh What a Red Sweater

Too young for her body’s changes,

but ready anyway, the angle of

her teen years practiced every night—

watching TV from the plush sofa, one hand dangling—

she knows just how to try on

the fish-net, body hugging, calf-length red sweater

as she steps from the dressing room

of the thrift store, met by her mother’s panic:

Mama, can I have it please?

And oh, how I want Mama to say yes,

and oh, how I want Mama to say no,

because how can you choose?

And which body will be

my next body, within this life?

(It isn’t you, I tell the mirror,

and put back the pork pie hat.)

Behind the register a gaggle of figurines,

blind beneath their fezzes,

beams upon us all—

glazed thrift shoppers, the odd lot,

gleeful and desperate.

What brightly painted doodads,

what riches on the racks,

and oh, the girl and the $4 red sweater.

She’s still a little girl, middle school

three weeks away, and an hour’s

bumpy bus ride in the summer rain,

wending down the coastal highway:

she’ll listen to her Mama.

Me? I’ll listen to the rain

typing gibberish on my umbrella,

and try on

word after word after word,

always getting wrong the color of those rose hips

along the muddy ditch, a blurred swath of

pink and green by the thrift store sign,

wedged in the present

where a little girl twirls a shopping bag

and stomps in every puddle in the parking lot.

from Elephants & ButterfliesFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2008
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in Alan Michael Parker Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.