Double Self-Portrait at Ten or Eleven.
I. In War Paint
I was wounded, I decided, though it was too dark to tell for sure.
At a lush, if lumpy, spot in the grass, I threw myself down beside a
fallen arrow tipped with a rubber suction cup.
The hour felt sweaty, almost feverish: next door the lawn had just been
How I loved the smell of cap guns in the evening!
And from the west drifted the musk of DDT: weekly, a Jeep patrolled the
streets, spraying as it went, but not yet had we been liberated from
Brother against sister, sister versus neighbor: around me the nightly
From the fort--by day, the front porch-issued the first call to bed; but
I lay still and let the dusk lean down to cover me instead. After all, I
was dead, though I could still smell the greasepaint on my cheeks,
O 1960! O wild West!
II. As Island
At the child-size window of television, I stared: the great plains of
winter my grandparents had left behind for something milder had come
after them, waving thick blankets of snow.
But Grandma waggled the wiry rabbit ears the TV wore like a Sunday hat--
and there appeared two doll-size men to argue over two small islands
I'd never heard of. O Quemoy and Matsu! Specks off the coast of
China, you were nothing but a chance to stay up late.
After morning Mass, for the sake of his heart, Grandpa shook salt that
wasn't salt onto his egg. The one on my plate stared at the pious
little sinner I tried to be.
Could the eye of God see into the navy-blue night of Grandma's
purse, past the lace handkerchief, to the vodka and cigarettes she hid?
She galloped through Zane Grey, the Police Gazette
, and Lives of the Saints
. He worried the palm of one hand with the other--why couldn't he
feel the stigmata yet?
O 1960! At their feet--hers in slippers, his in high-button shoes he
blacked on Saturday--the long nineteenth century ended on a mousy note:
across the living room stretched wall-to-wall carpet the very soul of
beige. There I lay, an island dulled to sleep, brushed by the foot of
the angel of history on its way through the door.