Sad Girl Sitting on a Running Board

by Michael McFee

She thinks we’ll notice her feet first,
laced into tire-colored brogans,
or the way her hand-me-down stockings
stop in a homely doughnut just below the knee,
or how cheap her crumpled sackdress looks
despite piping at collar and cuff.

But it’s the painful focus of her face
that stops us, trapped in its pageboy haircut
like chain mail, the gravity already
eroding her eyes and mouth and shoulders,
the world-weariness of those arms
folded in a half-hearted cross on her chest.

It’s that eye-level shadow of a hand
pressed into the dusty car door beside her
like fate waiting in an x-ray film,
rising to the breath-warmed surface of a dream
as if to say Halt, beware, stay back,
leaving its oily ghost of touch.

Michael McFee has published five collections of poetry — Plain Air, Vanishing Acts, Sad Girl Sitting on a Running Board, Colander, and Earthly — and has a sixth forthcoming. He has also published two anthologies, The Language They Speak Is Things To Eat: Poems by Fifteen Contemporary North Carolina Poets (UNC Press, 1994) and This is Where We Live: New North Carolina Short Stories (UNC Press 2000). He has also collaborated with photographer Elizabeth Matheson on To See (North Carolina Wesleyan College Press, 1991). He currently teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill.

From Sad Girl Sitting on a Running Board (Gnomon Press, 1991), © 1991 Michael McFee. Used by permission of author.