Dennis Hinrichsen

Radium City

It was the watches I wanted, those radium dials

Glowing like bomb sights

 

When I cupped my palm.

Wisp

 

Of radioactivity—the hour hand;

Nether-wisp—the second.

 

For weeks my mother worked the counter at Kresge’s—

Her faded pink smock

 

As tight as a nurse’s—

As she laid out the bands in their false

 

Reptilian shines—

The cowboy tans, the avocado greens.  This

 

Was Radium City

And my mother, Marie

 

Curie, scientist of jewels and hams,

The chunks of meat slapped

 

Like memory into the knife

And the iridescence sliced to pieces as thin

 

As winter sky, shaved uranium.

I had to stack them high to tongue the plugs

 

Of fats, the permeating salts.

The roll breaking in my hands like a ball of

 

Glass.  And the stench of drugstore

Popcorn, its second perfume

 

Mingling with what my mother wore

As she shoveled out

 

The bags like spent carnival fortunes.

More money was one we wasted on ourselves.

 

Or new drapes.

One last snap of the Tupperware over the nightly concoctions

 

No one ever wanted to eat.

I’d go away and ponder mono/stereo

 

For the extra buck

In the lp bins, or keep an eye walking

 

Home for Tarzan—

Weissmuller in a shiny Olds or Cadillac.

 

And then wait out the summer hours pitching

A 9-inning game

 

In a chalk box the side of the house.

Ferguson Jenkins for 7 or so,

 

Then Abernathy for the submarine.

Next door a neighbor would peg out his pet

 

Skunk and I’d listen as it roiled

With thirst

 

Or hunkered under diving blue jays,

Their cobalts dipped

 

In the mouth of the sun

And set out like hour hands

 

To the shadowed yard.

The Cubs would lose.

 

Weissmuller never show.

The Mexican kids from Dempster would threaten

 

To beat my ass into the street

And leave me there

 

Dented and ringing as a hubcap,

Another rat-faced kid

 

Waiting for his mother to come home.

Pink smock.

 

Ham in a pocket.

Singing beyond the genius of the meats,

 

The radium dials, the gems,

The gold fish

 

And guppies in their clouds of hopelessness.

The kiss, the mother’s kiss, put like a cure to the child’s face.

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