firstname.lastname@example.org / www.garygrossman.net
email@example.com / www.garygrossman.net
Bio Note: My writing appears in over 35 literary reviews, and a new book of poetry, Lyrical Years is forthcoming (2023) from Kelsay Press. I recently published a memoir/graphic novel My Life in Fish: One Scientist’s Journey, which is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make the Barbies Talk
1. Our kids don’t sleep, so we stumble through the days. A bedroom brood chamber, queen (us), single (five year old), and crib (baby), while clean laundry in the blue latticed basket shouts “fold me” as it squats in an unclogged square meter of bedroom, but there’s no room for a body to sort clean boxers, so I wear nylon gym shorts—washed daily, in our soaped, porcelain white bathroom sink. 2. We climb the hours until bedtime, our PhDs granting knowledge and fretful thoughts, as we navigate the minefield of our home. Eyeless toes step lightly over homeless pacifiers and Legos strewn across red oak floors like a modern version of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Some breaths are half taken, as we shrug, and another furrow joins the quartet at lip’s corner. 3. I’m an only child raised by a single Mom—now a father—young girls and rhinestones a mystery, though my wife—youngest of six—navigates this sea of girlness like a homing salmon, zig-zagging through 21st century seas. Masters of class rooms, our tools—logic and analysis mostly fail with these girls. Some dilemmas ethical—should we or shouldn’t we buy the requested Barbies? Scientist Barbie makes the cut, as do Latinx Engineer, and African-American physician Barbie. Mom said “a boy—no dolls”. 4. Nightmares run through our beds again, and I’m empty as the valves of a shucked oyster. But it’s time to animate the Barbies and I’m clueless, and dead tired. Moving to Rachel’s room, my back against her bed—we sit on the blue-grey braided rug, a Barbie in each hand and she says in a slightly irritated, bird voice “make the Barbies talk, Daddy. Make them talk.” So I am pushing through my weariness, plumbing the depths of creativity, and I morph Barbie One into a surgeon performing an appendectomy, while Barbie Two quickly earns a PhD in astrophysics and begins lecturing on black holes. I amuse Rachel for five minutes and forty-two seconds— then she says “that was okay, but now let’s change their outfits”.
My town is creative—music, art, literature. Most come for college, stay on—futoning house to house— fiscal sustenance a carousel with only part-time horses—barista, server, barback, cashier, revolving year by year—rent, food, car insurance, gas—chances at club gigs, group shows, open mics, art openings, and signings. It’s a granitic life—millennia of heat and pressure—the “break” just around the corner of Lumpkin and Clayton—always taking a toll. After thirty years I still cry, every time I read an obituary stating “cause unknown”.
Sorted on ice—an Expressionist palette of rockfish reds and oranges flare, but the greens and blues of skipjack and bonito dominate like good waves at Rincon, while doormat flounder sport a yin-yang of espresso top and creamy underside. A memory of La Boqueria, just off the Ramblas in the Barrio Gothico, Barcelona’s old town, old like zero CE, Common Era that is, a less inciting marker than Anno Domini. Every fish kiosk holds constellations of species, maybe thirty apiece. Shot-glass eyes, gaping mouths and fiery dermis signify beasts from light-swallowing depths, mostly rockfish but an exotic or two like orange roughy, now overfished—odd flat barrel shape and clan membership—the slimeheads. Who knew they lived two-hundred years? Boom and bust describes many things. But in Athens, Georgia, the Kroger resists whole fish, just fillets and steaks presented—unclad muscles, gray-white to pink—myomeres now released from bone and scales, sad as a leaf-less forest, or black fungused stalks of corn. I remember Gramma’s halting steps— opening our back door for Newman the Fish Man, who delivered blue pike from Lake Ontario’s thirty meter isocline, shallow water perch that fried up light as clouds in June and bass, striped with the salted smell and taste of a Long Island beach. When did we unplug the world—build that synthetic wall of cinder block and mortar, slip into our vacuum-sealed bed for safety and comforting warmth? Was it puberty, adulthood or parenthood? I wipe a few grains of river sand from my eyes, and hope for a tap on my line.
©2023 Gary Grossman
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to say what it is about the poem you like. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL