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Delaware Poetry Review

Franetta McMillian

It's year five at the Big Hole.
The big bell tolls
and children read off the names of the dead.
The President is here again
with his arms full of roses
and his words full of bluster,
but I can't say I'm impressed.

Instead I'm thinking about
a Cantor Fitzgerald ad,
the one that ran for a year
after Black Tuesday
and always made me bawl like an idiot,
with that balding accountant or stockbroker
reciting the names of his dead coworkers
and saying, I remember you,
I remember you,
I remember you,
like a twisted mantra.

I remember Steve Colburn
from the 10th grade.
He taught me how to play chess
and I loved him with all my heart
But he asked Suzy Primo
to the Christmas dance,
Suzy Primo who didn't know
how to pluck her eyebrows,
Suzy Primo who couldn't tell
a rook from a pawn.
I cried so hard in the girls room
that when the nurse found me
she thought I had broken a bone.

For months my heart ached.
Every time I passed him
in the hallway it was like
a ton of bricks hit my chest.
Then sometime that summer -
I think it was in July -
I was walking home from swim practice
and suddenly I could breathe:
the sun was shining;
the pain was gone.

Someday they will fill this hole
with marble and a waterfall.
Someday they will build a tower
of guts, glass and steel
impervious to all evil.
Some year we will gather here,
the bell will ring as always,
a little girl will stutter your name,
and it will no longer hurt.

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You have this friend
who takes you to high places
who gets you on TV
who hangs on your every word.
Now this friend's in trouble.
It's your turn this week
to save him
and you're deciding
how (and if) to begin.

How long must they beat this
dead horse? he asked
this morning after breakfast,
I've got a war to fight.
I need to move on.
As long as they want,
you answered,
because it's more than
one horse. And besides,
they're not horses; they're men.

You've always been a
champion of the dangerous
concerto. No one's ever
seen you sweat
except at the gym.
Should you drop
your steely mask
to appease the blood
of strangers? Or
should you save
your friend?

Ultimately it's the familiar
that assuages your
roiling heart. To hell
with the whining masses.
They don't pay your bills.
You'll buy a new suit.
You'll practice your
speech in the mirror
and be a
steadfast soldier
to the end.

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It's not as easy as it used to be.
No more lazy days at the ranch,
no morning jogs beneath the cherry blossoms
no more joking in the rain.

These days your man's gone gray and sullen
and you can't even buy shoes in peace.
Cities drown and people boo you.
You travel thousands of miles
yet no one will shake your hand.

You used to be golden.
Down in the bunker
power's scent hung heady and sweet.
So just how did you land in this den of wolves
so eloquent and impeccably dressed
with only your Fox guys
to keep you warm?

Stand by your man.
Is one love really worth all this?

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About the Poet

Franetta McMillian has been active in the Delaware literary community for the past twenty years. She has served on the board of Dreamstreets, a literary magazine based in Newark, Delaware. Her zine Etidorhpa was featured in the 2001 Zine Yearbook (Bowling Green: Become the Media, 2002) while Confession of Nathan Cross (Newark: Etidorhpa, 2004) was honored in the 2004 edition of Best Zine Ever (Portland: Tugboat Press, 2005). Her CD of spoken word and music, Reveries of the Solitary Walker, was featured in the (August 4, 2005) issue of the News Journal, Wilmington, Delaware.  Her most recent chapbook is entitled Down Low (Newark: Etidorhpa, 2006).