[wpaudio url=”http://www.bluestemmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/The-Way-They-Never-Laughed-At-Home.mp3″ text=”listen to this poem” dl=”0″]
Charlene Perrizo, Irving’s wife, used ketchup for spaghetti sauce.
Her daughter Mary Jo played “Yummy Yummy Yummy
I Got Love in my Tummy” for me on her flip and play record player.
When the music stopped I heard Irving call my mom
“Swivel Hips.” I was just a kid but I remember everything
about visiting the Perrizos as slightly sexual.
Mary Jo had a headful of thick black dull hair,
like an animal’s pelt. Charlene had thick hair too,
that special orange tint from a bad dye job.
The women were petite; Irving tall and lanky
with a pair of Buddy Holly glasses, a close talker.
There was a special buzz driving to the Perrizo’s,
a complicit silence on the long way home.
I don’t remember doing anything “wrong,”
but being close enough to see the fine black hairs
laid down on the creamy white skin of Mary Jo’s upper lip.
I remember red pills on the kitchen table,
cigarette smoke, the way my parents
never laughed at home, the solemn way Mary Jo
moved the needle over vinyl as we played
while the grownups drank.