Tina Harris


Down here, I feel
a ticking, a winding
tighter when I hurry
not to be left behind.
It tickles and tingles
when Randall rubs
my arm. Plastic baby
under my shirt makes
it tick-tock till I drop
the baby-doll down,
my panties buzzing
in alarm.


My friend writes from prison
that he is "losing wait." I think
he means "weight" since he goes
on to say he sweats everything out
in the un-air-conditioned trailers
he's housed in during Alabama's
August; he writes he can't win back
his appetite after de-beaking chickens
at Tyson's from six to four each night.

I want him to be losing wait.
Each passing minute shortening
the time until he wraps his arm
around my waist, his hand on
my round hip, and says, "Girl,
you're looking good to me,"
while I smile and say, "You too."

But I worry he means he can't wait
anymore, worry that he is losing
the weight that holds him there, keeps him
from slipping between the cracks
like a penny that would slide into the storm
drain if it weren't for a finger
pressing down to catch it.


Because we’re like candles
or garbage cans with a center
waiting for a flame,

because we hope to have our fires lit
under a lamppost or in a doorway,

we primp in front of mirrors,
practicing smirks and smiles,
we sing in our best falsetto,

allowing the railroad ties we walk
instead of the beat of our own songs,
to dictate the rhythm of our steps,

forgetting that we are like pillows
or mounds of pine straw; little bits
of us are lost every time we fluff.

Tina Harris, former editor of Aura, UAB's literary arts review, is currently earning a MA in creative writing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She also teaches creative writing at Birmingham's Work Release Facility for women.

All poems copyright © 2002 by Tina Harris.