Fifties Feature | Poem by Linda Straub

fifties feature poem

“50’s Feature”

by Linda Straub

Mother wore an off the shoulder dress

that swirled ’round her slender waist

and kissed a starched crinoline.

Father’s hair was ebony black,

a series of soft waves rolling down

his scalp, breaking on a rocky spine.

I sat in the back of their ’57 Chevrolet

eating popcorn and watching

James Dean on the Drive-in screen.

A squadron of speakers hung

from car windows where crackling

voices of movie stars faded in and out.

Sleep snuck up from behind

and stretched my weary body

across the wide back seat,

where my last sight

on that Summer’s night

was my Father’s wavy hair

dressing my mother’s bare shoulders.

Notecards | Donald Goines | High Dive Board | Poems by Peter Mladinic

Boobs in a Church


“Boobs in a church.” The frat boy

“Boobs in a church.” What did you say?

in the front row looked at me, I at him.

out nouns in magic marker: umbrella/

Monday night, Freshman Comp. I’d passed

courthouse; rabbit’s foot/ tunnel; wallet/

gym. Boots/ church, her prompts.

From the back, her high-pitched voice,

boots sounded different. A slim neck,

hair pulled up, dark eyes, flawless skin,

petite, shapely, she had to be there

as did I, if I wanted a paycheck. Spring,

April. Fountain pen/ swimming pool.

A stolen pen, the pool members only.

Tennis racquet/ nightclub; penguin/ ring.

There were animal cards. In an open door,

Saturday morning, mortgage-free, two

baths newly remodeled, I wonder where

she is. Outside our room, Discover

the Last Frontier, an astronaut tiny in

a galaxy poster on a board. The astronaut

helmet comes back silver. How did I get here?

How does anyone, where they are?

Toothbrush/ stadium. Wilbur brushes his

teeth in the bleachers. Fourth quarter

fervor. He clutches the wrong end.

In his hand, soggy bristles. A buzzer

sounds. A ball bounces off a rim. Crest

clouds the water in his red cup. His

Nighthawks walk off the court, their third

consecutive loss. Two other cards,

mirror/ cemetery, belong to a Suns fan.

Donald Goines

He had a really lucid essay on injustice,

about Black people getting screwed over

by the bail system. It wasn’t a rant, clear,

ordered, it made me think, he’s dead right.

He was always dead right, a prophet really

for troubled times in cities, car jacking,

mugging, armed robbery, much of it done

by people strung out. He knew that life.

He could have inherited his father’s dry

cleaning business. But he went in the army

and in Japan got stung out. Anyone wants

to preach the nightmare of strung out

should read one of his novels, Black Girl

Lost the one title comes to mind.

But he had many, and that his murder til

this day is unsolved, is tragic. He died,

literally, at the typewriter, someone broke in

to his apartment and shot him,

some paid assassin. He’d made enemies.

Try as he did, he couldn’t shake the life.

A croaker before that word was popular,

in prison he read Iceberg Slim and wrote.

He could have gone to a good college.

Self taught he lived what he wrote and he

wrote well. Dopefiend has a passage:

a young woman hangs herself on a shower

rack in a motel bathroom. It’s riveting.

The ugly truth of what drugs did to her.

(stanza break)

What drugs did. He had a choice,

more so than the woman whose life ended

in a restroom. He and his father died

only a month apart. Only his father,

of natural causes. Pimp, junkie, storyteller,

Black man, he wrought true fiction,

a world happening far from the tidy house

set back from the white picket fence.

High Dive Board

I’ve got to go to the tip and spring a little

and not look down, and feel the spring

go from toes to chin, then not just jump

but dive and maybe not bellyflop but do

a dive that wouldn’t win the grace-agility

award but at least pass so I’m no longer

a high dive virgin. I’ve got to dive. After

I’ve done it I can know, in my body, grace

or my imperfect grace, that differs from

placing the palm of my hand on a spike

of a gate that marks off the living from

the dead, at Gates of Heaven where you lay

six feet under, who once walked to the tip

of the board and bounced a little before

diving beneath the blue water’s surface,

emerging with a gasp before swimming

to the pool’s ledge, climbing out shaking

water drops on stone, you and your shadow

in afternoon climbed the ladder’s rungs

to dive again; and now your remains lay

near a sign: rest in peace. I’ve got to make

the dive at least passable so when I’m out

of the pool I can say I did something

you once did, again and again and do

no more, never to look up at white clouds

in blue sky before toes make that spring,

all of you shutting out what’s below:

girls in their fallen straps on blankets

in green grass, and toddlers holding hands

of their mothers in the pool’s shallow end.

Only you and the sky at the board’s tip,

you making it spring, then diving, no more

dives for you. It’s my shadow on cement,

moves with me, Jan, as yours moved

past the girls on blankets, the guards

in chairs, the swimmers and sun tanners

past all of it to the ladder, your wet feet

on the rungs, hands on aluminum rails,

you climbed to where it was you and sky.

Peter Mladinic’s fourth book of poems, Knives on a Table is available from Better Than Starbucks Publications.

An animal rights advocate, he lives in Hobbs, New Mexico, USA.