She doesn’t remember liking the movies
of her youth: double features, all black and white,
Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, “detective-type
shows,” but she enjoyed the event of getting to go.
Cartoons came first—Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner—
and these she liked, but not the newsreels,
the politics, the wars. “Movies were my babysitter,”
she says. For me, that was the roller rink. I had
skates of my own, and when she asks, I say yes,
I could skate backwards. She never learned.
Weekends at her roller rink, the radio station
held a singing contest for children. She sang once.
She sang well, as she recalls, “—and Mama
thought so too.” She sings now: If teardrops
were pennies and heartaches were gold—
Her thin voice wavers as she forgets the rest.
Buddy Blankenship, who lived in the house
behind theirs, always won. He peed the bed
well into his teens, and his mother always dragged
his mattress out to air on the back stoop. Mom
drinks the dregs of her coffee and pushes up
from the table. “Ah,” she says, “those were
the days.” Wistful, unironic. She shuffles
into the kitchen singing, and when she arrives
at the lost lyrics, she whistles the melody.
“If Teardrops Were Pennies” by Carl Butler, 1951
Poem by Marisa P. Clark
Photo by Flickr/drestwn