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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 4, December 2015

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Janet McCann
College Station, Texas, USA


Screened Porch

Sandra’s house so neat
even the rubber tree leaves
glow a waxy green

A tray of fresh chocolate-chip cookies and lemonade was always in the center of the card table because Sandra had a heart condition and her mother wanted us to play with her. So we sat out on the porch and played Parcheesi and Sorry and Clue and Old Maid, until Mary Ann looked at me and I looked at her and we said thank you so much, we have to go home now, and we said goodbye to Sandra and ran out the door, jumped over her hedge, and went off to climb trees.

A heart condition meant you could die and so we had to always be nice to her, and we liked her, but we all cheated and if she did you had to pretend you didn’t see it. And you couldn’t get even by cheating worse because then she would cry. But we played on into the afternoon and sometimes read movie magazines; Sandra really liked the stars with hair on their chests. She pointed them out. Cary Grant. Walter Huston. Peter Lorre.

At night there were hoarded sparklers, Mary Ann and I set them off in the woods. The flakes of light leaping in the dark, and afterwards echoing behind our lids. Sandra was never allowed to come to the woods, so we would tell her about the sparklers, and sometimes leave her one for her to set off with her father watching in her own yard. She was our scapegoat and pet, she who was ill, who drew the vapours away from us so we could climb trees and swing out over abysses on ropes, so we could feel our health pulse in our arms and fingers as we switched each other with whips from the willow tree. We played Parcheesi. We brought her sacrifices. We thought of her in the dark woods.

How we see the stars:
Flat on our backs on the grass,
through black branches

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