The De Angelos in their aboveground pool, Jerry Vale
on the phonograph, so loud, my father yells "god-damn
dago music," closes the windows despite the heat. It's July,
they amaze me, yelling from the roof of their one-story
house before the fat one with the sweater of hair makes
his shallow dive, displacing so much water. I hear them
call, as dark comes, "Enzo, Lucia," over and over, those
wicked children, a string of curses to bring them home.
Fathers filing out at 6:35, their white rumpled shirts,
jackets carried on one shoulder, the city heat and train
cars sweltering, my father says. I wanted to marry
one of these men, take him home, mix a drink, whatever
good wives do. They tell you to be beautiful for him,
there are tempting done-up women in the office, in
the city, on the train.
The train sounds low at night, a magnet which
pulls my heart when I try to sleep under summer sheets
it goes somewhere I want to go, just away, maybe
Manhattan, or all the other way, Montauk, the end.
Mr. Softee's tinkling song brings the children
out. We wait for ice cream in a cone or cup,
fudge bars, sundaes. We pay with quarters,
nickels and dimes found in pocketbooks
and drawers. In the heat, the ice cream melts,
drips down my sun-tanned arm,
and I lick it off with my hungry tongue.
The Expressway was the road to everywhere,
Nana's, Aunt Kate's, the city my father hated,
full of peepshows and deviants. Captive in the
back seat of the green Polara, filled with nicotine
and heat, I waited for the place between exits where
I could see a drive-in movie screen, just a slice of it,
in the summer dark. An image of a woman in a slip,
a glimpse of Bond or Sophia Loren. Just seconds,
it was there, like fireflies, it was gone.
Catherine Harnett is a poet and fiction writer from Virginia. Her work has appeared in a number of publications and anthologies, and Washington Writers Publishing House published two books of her poetry. In 2007, she retired from the federal government where she oversaw domestic and international public outreach programs. She holds an MA from Georgetown University.