“Call Me Boy on Saturdays” by Jackson Jesse Nash

Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2021: Artist’s Choice


Bucket by Danny Mask, a bucket full of water with ripple rings

Image: “Bucket” by Danny Mask. “Call Me Boy on Saturdays” was written by Jackson Jesse Nash for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2021, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

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Jackson Jesse Nash


We knocked doors
and when a yes came for a carwash
we asked if they’d fill our bucket,
removing the sponges and chamois,
the bottle of car shampoo
from the local garage
and hand over that green plastic money-maker
to quench our thirst for coins.
We scrubbed, suds dribbled,
rippled in rivulets
seemingly swallowed
by thirsty gaps in the bonnet,
and if they didn’t have a hose
(oh God, please have a hose),
we’d ask for another bucket load,
two, three, four, to rinse our labor
from car to drain to pocket,
endless heaving, hurling,
watching water

for slowly curling moments in the air
like 5 liters of glycerin
before exploding
over clean windshields and us,

two kids, 10 years old,
we sold our wiper blade arms,
our skinny please sir charms,
bargaining hard
with Michael’s Dickensian urchin smile,
fueled by that never-ending gasoline of Saturday!,
giving sponge baths
to the red rust-buckets of Galleywood,
pail hanging jaunty in the crook of my best friend’s arm,
a vat of charisma,
the tool of a car washing cult leader.
At his mum’s council flat
we’d count the pennies,
he’d claim extra for the sponges
or the shampoo, the chamois,
anything he thought I’d forget to tally,
but I never argued,
let it spill easy from my mind
like the cheap cola we poured on the pavement
just to watch it fizz,

because I was there
for the old man downstairs with failing eyes
who thought we were cousins,
the outlines of our matching blonde curtains
and black t-shirts—mine Taz, his Sonic—
washing rheumy into something related,
he’d shuffle out into the bleach stinking stairwell,
stalling, searching for something
to wipe away the boredom, anything
to start his engine,
drive some conversation,
in his hand a bag, shaking
hard sticky sweets we’d never eat,

and then he’d ask my favorite question:
How many cars did you wash today, boys?
and I silently prayed for Michael
(oh God, please don’t give it away)
not to ever laugh,
not to ever, ever say
but she’s a girl!
I would have paid all my pennies,
washed mud-caked jalopies
bare-handed in a hurricane,
peeled bugs off car windows until the end of time,
knocked doors until my knuckles bled,
cracked all my teeth
on those rock-hard prehistoric sweets,
flung fifty buckets of icy water
over my craving little girl head,
just to feel the thrill
of hearing that old man call me boy
one more time
on a Saturday.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
January 2021, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Danny Mask: “‘Call me Boy on Saturdays’ is an inspiring and youthfully happy, fast clip, high energy jaunt, following two young entrepreneurs as they wash cars. The winner of this challenge engaged my imagination with an easy-going, relaxed, well-grounded very relatable story, guided by conversational living room logic. I was there with them on their journey, all along the way! This poem entered my hard heart by giving me a reason to care, it had a strong sense of the writer’s world, and brought back strong memories of my own childhood, when my twin brother and I climbed up and down tall trees to get mistletoe and sold it door to door at Christmas when we were 10 years old. The winner of this challenge is a purposely breezy, sweet, self-conscious autobiographic narrative, that, thank god, is not too long or dense. It uses clear—with a hint of vernacular—conscious, concrete, figurative language, with a tinge of nostalgia.”

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