Loretta Wray

by Terri Kirby Erickson

My mother, lipstick red, barefoot, toenails painted the palest shade of pink,
stretched out her dancer’s legs and rubbed suntan
lotion into a face that should have been magnified on a movie
screen—the kind that bowled men over even with curlers
in her hair and children dangling from both hands wherever she went.
They never saw the greasy chaise lounge
behind our house where the sun whispered sonnets
in her ears and darkened her skin with hot kisses while the radio
played Blue Velvet. And the green grocer and the mailman
and the gas station attendants and the jean-clad teenage boys loitering downtown
on Saturday afternoons, who caught glimpses of Loretta Wray
every now and then, if they were lucky, would have dropped dead
with desire if they’d seen her sunning herself in our backyard wearing
nothing but a two-piece bathing suit and a lazy, sun-drenched grin,
the best years of her life almost but not quite, past.

North Carolina native TERRI KIRBY ERICKSON is the author of three poetry collections, including In the Palms of Angels (Press 53, 2011). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in American Life in Poetry, 2013 Poet’s Market, JAMA, The Christian Science Monitor, and North Carolina Literary Review. Visit her website at terrikirbyerickson.wordpress.com.