by Susan Elbe

My Angel

Every angel is terrifying…

--Rainer Maria Rilke

In the summer dark behind my eyes,
he's always there, waiting for me
dressed in tight black chinos
with a pack of Luckys
rolled into his T-shirt sleeve.
On his arm, my name's tattooed
in blue like hopscotch grids
we chalked as children on the sidewalk.
With him, I’m always fifteen,
slim-hipped and Candy Pink lipped.
I’m always moony and unsure.

I wanted one straight-backed, articulate,
with wings white as the sails
of Monday wash snapping on clotheslines,
halo dazzling as a dime
dropped down a steam vent grating.
But this one--dark, rough
as a dockhand--waits for me,
slouching on the stoop steps
with others of his kind. They mouth
gritty southside lingo, lag
pennies, and play mumblety peg.

He courts me with the juicy gold of oranges
from the old Greek’s fruit stand,
and the sweaty-feet stink of the stockyards.
He woos me with the way-too-hot-
to-sleep scrape of folding chairs on porches
and the complicated gossip
of women and lilacs bending over fences.

He's always there in me like all-night traffic.
Turning slowly in my head,
he strikes a match in the blush-stained
circle of a street lamp.

He's the one who walks me home
when the moon is high and blinds us
like a one-headlight, cherry Chevy.
He whispers in the hallway on the stairs,
his lips, moth wings against my ear.
He wants me to go all the way.

First appeared in CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women