Black Leather Jacket


Eric Gansworth

You dangled unaware
on your hook
as I remembered
her mentioning you
quietly one night
over her gritty coffee,
your anticipated
embrace the end
to my sore-footed search
one arm
casually tucked
into a front pocket
maybe reaching for smokes
or perhaps ready to reveal
a brilliant set of keys,
saying "It's about time."

December twenty-third brought
me to you
the question mark carved
into my greasy brow
a little different
from those other
pleading faces
desperately conjuring
lingerie sizes
from minds that have
forgotten the last time
they said "I love you,"
to the women in their lives
and really meant it.

As I bathed in household
appliances she'd never have
the inclination to learn
knowing she preferred over any
food processor the scarred
paring knife which has tasted
pints of her blood by now,
I could hear her already:
"You lose touch
if you don't feel the work."

If I dragged running
water, a commode, a septic system
to her home, slipping them in
through one of the gaping holes
where the wreck refused
to continue masquerading
as a house
Would she turn her back
wash herself clean
of my city influence
and throw me out the back door
with her dirty water?

Her dignity was beyond my
meager success, anyway
But the $129.99 price
tag before me was not.
Your sultry, gleaming
skin called to me.
I longed to trace
the floral growth
etched into your tasteful
patches of rough skin,
resembling the rose bushes
she had grown
when she'd had the time
to keep the thorns
from taking over.

"Roses don't put food
on the table," she'd said
when, at twelve, I asked
about her robust thorn bushes.
"Mrs. DeBartellomeo gives
twenty-five a day,
just for a once a week cleaning,
No rose bush
is gonna give that kind
of wage," she said
chasing me out the door
so she could cook
for my brothers
and sisters
and uncle
and me
in peace.

I presented you to her
Christmas morning
and she rubbed your skin
following the same patterns
I had at the store,
trying you on
and snatching glances
of you and her together
in the mirror
before telling me
to return you.

As I drove you back
to the store defeated
I heard her voice instead
of the quad sound system
in my fast car.
"I wouldn't recognize myself,"
she said.
"And besides, where
would I wear it?
Emptying the pot?
Burning the garbage?
Save your money.
Save your money.
Save your money."

© 1998 Eric Gansworth

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