Sunday, October 9, 2016

Poem: In the Seventh Grade


In the Seventh Grade

In seventh grade, I wanted desperately to buy a chartreuse
satin jacket that all the cool girls in the class had. I thought
those jackets were beautiful, so shiny and soft and in that
wild color that was so popular that year. My mother said,
No, you don’t need that junk, and looking back I see how cheap
and sleazy those jackets were, how that color would have made
my olive-toned skin look jaundiced, but then I fell asleep dreaming
my mother bought me the jacket she called junk and would slide
my arms into the sleeves and miraculously I would become

one of the cool girls, the girls who stood around on Paterson street
corners with boys in black leather jackets, the girls who would be
the first to be kissed, the first to go out on a date, the first to wear
a boy’s ring on a chain around their neck, and not someone like me,
shy, inarticulate, introverted and unable to find even one word t
to say to the boys in the class who treated me as though I were breakable,

something in my big eyes and palpable innocence that made
them want to protect me. In seventh grade, I wanted to be sexy
and to have that quality some girls had that drew boys to them
like bees to honey, the musk my friend still has, where men flirt
with her and where her whole body changes when she talks
to them. Even now, seventh grade an old memory in black
and white, in some part of me that child I was remains, wanting

a pill that could transform me, while the other part of me,
the one that races through my life like the roadrunner,
the one who has long since left that 17th Street tenement
behind, knows I would not trade the woman I have become
for all the shiny, chartreuse jackets in the world.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, from The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets






Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the author of twenty-one books. Her latest poetry collection is What Blooms in Winter. Maria's official website is at MariaGillan.com.