Kate Seferian Poetry


Savannah, 1969 and A Deafness

 

Savannah, 1969

I painted my toenails red that summer

for a reason—

hair swept above my skinny shoulders

and skin slick with sweat.

Kneeling next to my Easy-Bake Oven,

we regarded our stash—

pilfered from the bar buffet outside

guarded so carelessly by

hired teenagers in black and white and blemish—

and we popped olives between our teeth,

playing adults before playing house.

Letting brine drip down my lip and chin,

I didn’t need my tongue to taste your salt.

This dinner party gauze:

voices like Spanish moss,

clinging to humid air,

highball glasses tinkling into our ears from open windows.

My ruby toes and bare feet on cool marble at midnight,

discovering every bathroom shut tight and locked—

Could I imagine, then,

what lived behind closed doors—

hitched-up skirts and

lost car keys, Brilliantined hair

muffling lipsticked lies and

two weeks’ paid vacation

slinking around like a prize.

I saw my father’s hand on

the small of a blue sequined back,

but my mother always chose white.

Urgency prevailed:

I found myself outside, crouching

in the neighbor’s shrubs for relief

digging my nails into soil like fresh meat—

my blind fingers now midnight explorers

of dirt, of earth, where everything

dies and starts anew.

 

 

A Deafness

Let me tell you a secret, she said.

I shrugged my scarf up to my ears,

not bothering to chase her words

as the wind whisked them away.

We raced our matching

red Converse sneakers

over the frosted pavement,

careless of whatever blackened ice

lay just below soles.

But I have something to say, she whispered

as I kicked up dust and pebbles

behind the school, trying to fill

the spaces between her words instead

of carefully fingering them,

like touching pieces of crushed velvet.

My eye was an errant stitch

she could not snag;

my attention—a reluctant, slithering fish

refusing bait;

my distractions proved

too sticky for her to wipe away.

Ears brimming with seesawed shrieks

jumbles of verb conjugations

phone chats with a weekend father

were no match for the weakly

knocking fists behind her voice.

Our world had freeze tag in

the sidewalk hedges

ice-creamed faces and

slipshod manicures and

plucky linked elbows—

She tried to show me

the corpse on the stairs

but I had already skipped

past it and out the front door.