Barbara's Story

Lee Upton

The glass bead strands dripped
over the hat brim like noodles.
The woman said she would like to take
me home: I looked like the child on her calendar
with the duck. When she turned away I crushed
several hair nets, committed little murders
with stick pins. I was happy,
happy as the little ruby
hat and glove set. Happy in the mirror.
I punched crisp dresses
in the racks, jammed my head in and out.
The woman said to my mother:
He shouldn't have left you.

After the hats, after groceries
my mother and I sat in the pickup.
Nobody's birthday but we had our party.
It snowed. We said white holes, white saints,
white birds. My mother said stray nurses.
Stray nurses! What a couple of gals!
All white snow on the windshield,
snow on the road all the way home
where we took our hats out
once a week and then put them back
like birds in a white cage
like cakes in cake boxes
like nobody's business.



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