by Katrina K Guarascio
The first fright of my toddlerhood
comes with the skinned knees I earn
as I roll under the slow-moving car and
watch the underbelly of blackened gears pass overhead.
I cry because it is supposed to hurt,
not because I recognize the pain.
My mother curls me on the worn brown velvet
of my grandmother’s chair,
anoints the cuts with antiseptic.
Back when my hair was still blonde, she sings the only
song she knows that mentions the idea of God.
It is the first song that saved my life.
won’t you buy me…
the sound of combusting glass
echoes inside our tiny white house.
The one with no showerhead above the claw foot tub.
We were living off of Ramen noodles and
peanut butter sandwiches when the caustic shards spat
on the kitchen floor. It was then I first learned
the stinging lesson of touch.
My mother’s scream assured me of the pain
hot glass should inflict on five year old flesh.
She placed my hand under running water as
the skin swelled red and bubbled to blister,
her lips pressed tight in concentration.
The answer to my mother’s song came in
a green eyed man with a charismatic grin, a good job,
and a tendency to drink too much.
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,
my friends all drive Porches, I must make amends.
That Mercedes, big, white sedan
gobbled diesel back when it was the economical way to go.
The car the Lord bought us would drive us
from California to New Mexico to California to New Mexico,
and back again and back again.
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color tv,
dialing for dollars is trying to find me.
That color television with every channel
1980’s cable had to offer played MTV back
when music was the only thing that could
save a mortal soul.
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town,
I’m counting on you Lord, please don’t let me down.
And He gave us those nights out, with
a beer in one hand, a red face, and a loud laugh.
My mother curled my hair,
painted blue eye liners to lids and
poured wine into my adolescent glass
under the uncaring eye of the wait staff.
Another round, another round, another round.
You must have been listening,
must have been trying to answer the hymns of a single mother,
but no good comes without its price.
What consequences could be predicted
of a German car, a color tv,
and few too many nights on the town?
Take us back Oh Lord,
to the simplicity of survival,
when all I knew of pain is what could felt
from a skinned knee and a blister on my thumb.
Before the beer cans rolled on the floor of the car,
before the television shattered to brick mantel,
before cruel hands bruised my mother’s neck,
before I picked her off the floor to hold her
and rock her to the first song that saved my life.
I don’t want anything money can buy.
Give me my mother holding
my childhood on her lap,
rocking me in my grandmother’s chair,
stroking my hair back when it was still blonde,
singing to me.