Demetrice Worley - “Coming to Know Things”
Michelle, at fourteen you knew things
I couldn’t understand, like FM radio
waves rolling across your new stereo,
a fuller sound than my tinny AM transistor.
Nearly every FM station sounded like
nasal tones, “Public Radio,” except
the ones playing hard guitar twangs
I’d never heard on Chicago’s WVON,
“Voice of the Negro.”
Michelle, at fourteen we listened to songs
pressed into black vinyl, LP albums you bought
for the amazing price of eleven cents, a penny
per platter. White bands I didn’t know like
Clear Water Revival, Steely Dan, and
Bachman Turner Overdrive made you dance
across your stepmother’s glossy hardwood floors.
When you read the record club’s
collection letter, you laughed, explained
how you didn’t use your own name
on the order slip; told me even Perry Mason
couldn’t convince a jury that a black girl
living on Chicago’s west side would listen
to Lynard Skynard. I believed you
when you said, “I didn’t commit a crime.”
Michelle, at fourteen, we kissed,
said we were friends for life. I wanted
you to soothe me with kisses like those
you shared with Eric; he filled you
with more than my wonderment.
The girls called you “nasty.”
I/he/we knew milk breath sweetness,
silky sweat, black feathered line
from navel to pubes.
Michelle, at thirty-nine, my hands
remember the sharpness of your ankles,
a bunion on your left little toe, small bones
in your feet. I held them while you completed
a hundred repetitions. You said sit‑ups
would whittle the swell of your belly.
I believed you didn’t commit a crime.
“Coming to Know Things” copyright © 2006 by Demetrice Anntía Worley.