Demetrice Worley - “Coming to Know Things”

i.

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.”

ii.

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.”

iii.

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.

iv.

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.