“Question Mark and the Mysterians” by Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker


I’m upstairs in my teenage bedroom, lights out,
listening to WABC, Cousin Brucie, under the covers,
my hair so tightly wound around wire rollers
the size of juice cans that it’s impossible to sleep.
But how else can I get it to flow from the center part,
then flip at the ends in symmetrical s’s? How can I
go to school, if my hair’s not right? Who will I fall
in love with, who will take me to the prom, who
wrote the book of love
? I lean out the window, no
streetlights here in the country, just Orion’s cinch belt,
Cassiopeia’s W, the same letter I wear on my chest
when I cheer for the team, All for you, Red and Blue.
I’m the only one who can do a flip and a cartwheel-
split. In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight
I wail along in my tinny voice, unable to imagine a village
in Africa, children squatting in the dust, but somehow
I tap into the small stream of longing that floats
off those high thin notes. Out there, in the night sky,
the dusty river of the Milky Way is flowing, pulsing
toward the future, where s’s flip to question marks,
little fish hooks, that bob and dip in the current,
go where it takes them.

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007

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