The Blue Room

That was the year I first smelled a girl
on my fingers – a consensus of sweat and blood
and bloom – the same year a skinny Polish kid and me
turned a recess tussle into a year-long fight
not long after I learned “Hotel California” on the guitar
and squeaked a desperate chorus to every
freckled schoolyard chick who’d listen
That was the first year I believed the white boys
who bragged about all the sex they’d had It seemed
everything by then was a race so there I was still
crouched at puberty’s starting blocks anxious
to sprint toward that orangutan manhood of my own
Each afternoon at the library across the street
from St. Francis Convent where nuns without
last names came and went (the ones who taught us
to memorize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and
to avoid the only two kinds of sin that mattered–
mortal and fun) Carrie Anne Evaloy and I
would loiter between stacks of big-print novels and
artbook nudes reclined in some French meadow
We hid behind racks of Boy’s Life and Highlights
finally crept upstairs to an empty lights-out
high-ceiling high-windowed vault of a space
where everything gave up its color
for some vague shade of blue
where she and I jammed our tongues
into each other’s mouths–more lost than lustful–
where I lifted her plaid skirt and she goose-stepped
out of her panties and I pulled down
her bra to taste her nipples pink and perked
between my lips Of course
I didn’t want to – I had to
What could be more Catholic

Sometimes I wonder what’s become of that
strong-thighed half-French/half-Irish gymnast who let me
for one year in the Blue Room of the public library
slowjam and slopkiss her from neck to hip–two of us
dodging the few beams of afternoon that lit
the slant columns of dust our bodies unsettled until
we emerged into the full light back
downstairs to the other kids: her friends in one corner
and the white boys in another waiting–hungrily–
to sniff the what-was-it-like musk of my hands
and inhale from my fingers the perfume of a future
they swore they already knew

Patrick Rosal is the author of two books of poetry, Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive (Persea Books), which won the Asian-American Writers Workshop Members Choice award, and My American Kundiman, which will be published in Fall 2006. His work has appeared in North American Review, The Literary Review, Brevity, and The Beacon Best 2001. He is currently Assistant Professor of English at Bloomfield College. (prosal@gomarky.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761