“Sparks” by Pamela Gemin

Pamela Gemin


Charlie claims that’s where his momma made him,
so what he remembers best is the fragrance of backseat
leather, the pillows and creases that stick to the backs
of bare legs. Charlie has borrowed the Rolls tonight,
some old Miami fart’s pride and joy sent in for detail
striping. By day you’re the ponytailed girl who shines
cars for Charlie, out back in your green bikini top
and cutoffs. Down here it’s as easy to hire cute
as ugly, Charlie says, so he hires cute. By night
you’re the glamour girl with the Zsa Zsa updo,
thrift store rhinestones in your twist, another gift
from Charlie. Nobody asks what a man
his age would want with a teenage girl, why he borrows
the fanciest cars to take you out dancing on the strip,
for surf and turf at the famous revolving restaurant
at the pier. Sometimes you get so drunk on Singapore
Slings that you lose your way back from the Ladies’
Room, a spinning girl spinning out of a spinning toilet stall,
into a spinning world on slingback pumps. Sometimes
the steak’s too pink for you, sometimes hot butter drips
off the chunks of lobster you hold aloft with your tiny fork,
trying to catch a stray thought or make a point. My daughter
don’t hold her liquor so well, he explains to frowning waiters.
Charlie Sparks says that with him, a girl never has to do anything
she doesn’t want, though it might be nice and it wouldn’t hurt.
He’d never turn down a sweet goodnight kiss, for instance. But
Charlie’s a patient man. He likes the wait.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005


Pamela Gemin: “‘Sparks’ was a memory poem, written during a return trip to a place I had lived as a very young woman. As soon as I turned down my old street and stood in front of the house I had lived in, the poem was as good as written. That pure, instantaneous translation—of memory into a language inaccessible at the time of an experience—is one of the many gifts of aging and one of the many gifts of poetry.” (web)

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