Colleen McKee

In the Glossy Green Heart of the Neighborhood

We quarreled up Washington, Waterman, Ames,
through the elegant gated boulevards,
“communities” where we did not belong.

From behind trimmed hedges, good homeowners
glowered at us, two plump girls
in shabby skirts cooing, sniffing,
humidly clutching, then releasing
each others’ hands, blowing our noses
on crumpled Kleenex, declaring our love and dismay
loudly enough for the neighbors to hear,
and you know, it’s one thing…but as long
as you keep it behind closed doors…

But our salaries did not permit privacy,
only roommates who multiplied like mice,
so in the glossy green heart of the neighborhood
I pilfered a zinnia the color of brick
worrying, bending the fibrous stalk,
felt a sting as my fingers slid down the stem
from the slender short hairs that looked soft as yours.

The leaves stiff as paper said, promise,
I promise. It did not want to give,
but I gave it to you.

Colleen McKee is the author of two collections of poetry: My Hot Little Tomato, and A Partial List of Things I Have Done for Money. She is also co-editor of an anthology of personal essays, Are We Feeling Better Yet? Women Speak About Health Care in America. She lives in Oakland, CA and teaches at the Academy of Art.