I call these the White Comet, red leather interior trilogy. They are currently submitted but so far no takers. They are very personal but I hope like it is said that in the deeply personal there is the Universal.
Black and White Snapshot 1963
Home from the hospital
Glaring, bright white sunlight
Late October morning in Los Angeles
Mother stands against the car door
White Mercury Comet, red-leather interior
White sleeveless sheath dress
Matching white kitten heels
So pointy-toed it’s impossible
(Everything about this is impossible)
Black beehive, not a hair out of place
Opaque black sunglasses
I am a shrouded white bundle
Placed on the right angles of her arms
White is the color of
Thrifty Ice Cream
I scrub the hub caps
and white walls
of the white Comet
with red leather
with Comet cleanser
and a scrub brush.
The hose gushes
warm fresh water
nearby as my
father soaps the hood.
we will drive together
me sitting on his lap
my hands on the
while his feet
press the gas and
I am scared and
excited at the
We get out
at a nearby
shopping strip. I hold his hand.
I ask, looking up at him,
can we get some ice cream?
He says, looking down at me,
Why can’t you just wait for
me to surprise you? As always,
I am sucker-punched by
not being able to be anything
except what I am.
Mom piloted the white Comet
with red leather interior
onto the freeway.
Even back then people were afraid to merge.
She was stiff and silent, far away.
Grandma sat up front with her.
I sat in the back on the bench seat.
My view the backs of their heads and
my Keds-clad feet
at the edge of the red leather seat.
Grandma had to go to UCLA
where for her troubles
she would be treated shabbily for
being a medically indigent adult
and die from cervical cancer any way.
I didn’t know that then,
that she was ill and desperate.
Her always glamorous show was intact.
Lacquered, burnt-orange beehive
Max Factor pancake, Revlon fire and ice lips
Razor-thin, pencilled in eyebrows
that seem to float above the clouds of her eyes
Black eyeliner that winged out flawlessly
Plush false eyelashes that were so long.
She was a living embodiment
of the Pasadena Playhouse scholarship
she abandoned to marry my Grandfather.
A dark, dashing cad who gambled away
their furniture, her trust.
Their show went on in the Technicolor
of every day life.
Bruises from drunken brawls,
A tiny coffin for a buried child.
I shook in my boots when Grandma showed up
at our house.
My mother’s rage scorched us all.
I remember standing in the driveway with her
as her mother boozily drove away,
I held my mother’s hand.
That day, though, in the Comet with red leather interior
Grandma turned to me from the front seat,
like we were the only two people in the world,
reaching for my hand, smiling.
Thrilling me with butterfly kisses.
It’s like I had heard that she died not too long after that. But
I can’t remember it and my mother kept me from the funeral.
I remember the fear and anger but
they seem far away now and
I keep a set of false eyelashes
with my make-up kit.
I don’t wear them.
I don’t know how.