I'm happily retired from teaching Special Education, and spend my days doing what I love: writing, quilting and gardening. My debut poetry collection, No Passing Zone, was published in December, 2012 by Deerbrook Editions. Recently, my poems have appeared in OxMag, Evening Street Review and the e-zine, www.thefuriousgazelle.com. For more information please visit my website: www.donnareis.com.
Up on the hill, we'd breakfast in your conservatory
watching fog burn off the lake below and eddy
over stone outcroppings. Scandinavian was in that year,
so your mother painted flowers across the table, chairs
and server, while green lattice wallpaper graced the walls.
Elegance you under cut, sticking your tongue out
to show off the green bugger you picked and ate,
as the maid rushed from the room retching.
Your town bragged Astors, Achinclosses or Achinchlii,
as they joked when there were several, and Jacobean
architecture; mine, faded, resort bungalow colonies
and ninety-one bars, a third topless.
I could fit my whole house in your kitchen
and park my parents' car in your butler's pantry.
For homework, our French teacher assigned us
to count the rooms in our homes. I cheated
counting hallways, reporting, Huit,
you cheated counting closets, Quatre-vingt-treize.
When your parents gave cocktail parties,
I was invited to spend the night. Laughter wafted
up the French, brass curved staircase we spent
afternoons sliding down. Couples tossed their keys
into a circling basket,
nervous to fish out a different set when it returned.
The next day scandal darkened each recess--
and divorces rained for thunderous months.
We dragged our childhoods behind us like dead limbs,
in need of burning. Our headmaster greeted us daily
with searching glances, but our curtsies and bows
revealed nothing. We kept our unspoken code
and no one was told that Stewart's mother always picked
him up last, staggering into the vestibule slurring apologies.
Instead, we snickered at Mrs. Coe's many colored bras
seen through her gauzy blouses, especially the one
with the peek-a-boo, nipple cut-outs.
School, solace to some, hell for others: kids were told
they were exceptional, or they didn't deserve to be
there. Hierarchy bred betrayal among students:
you stole Stewart's house key telling him I took it.
When he asked to search my desk, it was planted inside.
One of the kids who boarded slammed a door
on my friend's neck, cinching his face purple
as piss streamed down his leg and across the floor.
Traveling from summer house to winter house
or holidaying in Europe, most children were unaware
of traumas housed behind the massive, Gothic, iron gate
guarding the Park entrance. I sang the Greek chorus
needing to set everyone straight. What did they know
of Mafia-mangled bodies washing up on shores
every spring; the Jewish lightning that lit skies as bar after bar
burned down; how our streets bottlenecked with Jersey
Faces thirsty for a lower drinking age. Bands echoed
across the Lake covering Cream, Janis and Jimmy,
and I was a goner for stars that shot far above
fortresses that locked their doors at night
to keep in the dark.
©2018 Donna Reis
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