Jimbo's Hamburger Palace
A little girl's thumb
in her mouth. Young face too
young for her body, pudge unmasking
the need for a bra. Her neon
orange tank and matching capris. Her hair says
she just finished playing outside --– braids
partly unraveled, short tufts sticking out
at the edges. Her company -- – I assume her mother,
who doesn't even put down her cell phone
when the food comes. She chews home fries
between mmhmms. An older girl, too -- – a sister?
cousin perhaps. They don't say much
to each other. Sister/cousin plays with salt
until pancakes arrive. Pancakes and home fries
at a burger joint, can't get better.
Until a woman in black leggings,
intentionally razored ragged up to the thigh
and white T-shirt knotted at the hip,
makes a bowlegged entrance. Her white-blond afro,
cut close to the scalp, contrasts
brilliantly with her skin and quarter-sized
glazed circles decorate her muscled forearms:
burns. She has a baby on her hip,
curly haired and teething on a bright blue ring.
She sits the baby into a wooden high chair,
though the infant can barely hold up her bobbing head.
The mother air kisses them goodbye. They eat quickly,
get up to leave. A man is leaving
at the same time, holds the door for them.
Thank you baby, the grandmother says,
genuine, smiling golden-toothed, Harlem.
Inside a House
"I think how fragile it is to be inside a house"
– Sarah Gambito
Inside stories of final children certain voices foretell: We have a rule no one decides against, several say. Meanwhile fear is a good motivator, closets create fine character, yes -- – something about their pallor is frightening, cartoonishly resolute, a never changing delusion. Inside the dark just means some creation, some dismissed prelude. One recalls backed up threats, even marital arrangements.
Inside certain guarded times of day make for good grappling; when left behind, one of them was on her knees. A real celebrity starlet lookalike, tantalizing to greedy men of middle age. I see why this one is divorced, says another. The solution is bronze loafers from the thrift store and argyle socks. Yellow, next to the bed. And outside, miles away, a rundown place called Tropica X -- no relation.
A very nice man spelled Bernini for a woman searching online to dress her adolescent nephew. Nothing in the air about her said childlessness, while everything else said grief.
Inside a girl checked herself in the mirror for emotional spillage. She had learned by now to dislike the messiness of it, how it produced the same look on her mother's face as the dog's twaddle on the carpet, and the further twisting and baring of teeth as she kicked the yelping thing with her pointy-toed spectator pumps. One ought to be able to feel things, the girl thought briefly before realizing she could no longer tell the difference between feeling and thought. In an instant, the tension in her body eased away.
Six floors up is the juicy stuff -- reassembling of sexual spreadsheets. The mistress of the house, a recent widow, making phone calls in nothing but light blue lace, never tacky. Overheard by the maid sweeping outside the door: brusque…...(laughter)…...how did it fit you?…...and ask if she likes the same type of overweight man sitting behind me --
Formal dining moving to ballroom
Inside a chorus of nasal voices piled upon one another like ants on a sugared hill or an avalanche of scissors. Every holiday a different pawn, alibis assembled at each setting along with worries about the black fan and the woman who talked incessantly with her hands. Outside the first turn played like a miracle and then lost all confidence. Inside there's a bridge winner scuffing the walls with a warm shoe. It's now appropriate to call on the griffin lover's sister, who indeed fights like an animal. The grilled meat is a knee to the chest. Intermittently, as neighbors smile at the tall windows before passing by.