The week I learned to add, you took me to the ice-cream shop
with the kiddie-taxi-cab ride. I pocketed the quarter, sat in
the unmoving cab anyway. Looking at its ceiling, I’d hoped the
hieroglyphics etched there hadn’t faded. How I wanted to know
the person whose lips hid something that sweet, the sun peeking
above a bruised horizon, the fruit of a cantaloupe moments
before spoiling. On the roof of that cab I found words to stash
in my mouth and whisper to boys who said I was too good, words
you would have wanted to wash out with soap, words that rhymed
with bucket, ones I heard the city girl say. Now in cabs I
always look up, begging the dingy ceiling not to disappoint,
words to fall from above, ones whose letters have arms that wrap
around me, taunt me with taboo.
Thank You, El Viejo
The summer I worked on the farm
my heart crushed under the weight of
a teenage farmhand.
A white boy
bartered for my guilt,
stole my innocence
the way he’d steal an apple
from my hand.
In dust-covered jean shorts,
frayed edges flirting with skin,
I fit the part.
The Mexicans noticed me—
Ay, Chica, cuidado.
Even the ducks ignored it
as he pinned me to the dirt
between rows of cabbage that
El Viejo had just come over
to help me pick.
When Jane Harper is not reading or writing poems, she
teaches high school students how to be passionate about reading
and how to be compassionate toward people; and when she’s not
doing that, she’s likely playing Monopoly with her
seven-year-old stepson. (He usually wins.)