by Lisa Dordal

To enter the pinched interior
of T. R. Wolfe’s Toy and Candy,

was to risk your squint
that branded every kid

a thieving urchin,
straight from Dickens.

Your hair pulled back
into a coarse, gray stone,

your face bony and sad—
as we’d tap our fingers

against the counter glass
to pronounce our choice

of pink cigarettes cloaked
in sugary smoke. Or,

from the sundry collection
of jigsaw puzzles, lining

the store’s high-shelved
perimeter: our choice

of Barbie and Ken’s
dream house, the cockpit

of a Concorde, UFO’s
over a Midwest wheat farm.

Puzzles that would spread
like sea garbage

across our bedroom floors.
How can it be that this

is what was given you?
Not a pursuit of quiet,

brainy labor: reading
the ash in Nile River mud.

Or studying the remains of prey
inside the restless borders

of an amoeba. Only
the daily repetition of warm coins

passing from our hands
into yours. And how

can I not admire you
for your refusal to feign contentment.

Whatever it was you wanted,
getting us instead.

LISA DORDAL, author of Commemoration from Finishing Line Press, teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt University. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of journals including Best New Poets, Calyx, Cave Wall, Sojourners, New Millennium Writings, and The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.