Touch by Michelle Askin

9 Miles South of DC, what Best Places Reports “Modern Suburbs”
left out: compound public houses lining Bailys Crossroads.
The El Salvadorian teenagers put on their fast food
aprons and mutter rosaries for their deported cousins
and pregnant disabled sister. And a bald man walks in,
his pink head to match the oversized Koosh ball
he’s been juggling with a copper, moldy orange.
Says he hates Mexicans then pulls out a water gun
and says what are you going to do fuckin’ shoot me.
And one girl did fuckin’ shoot him— She was another
girl raped in the restroom. She was in my ESL/
Spec. Ed class where I long term subbed while I was
looking for a better gig. And now she’s in jail and at 19
still sleeps with a bright teddy bear: MR they labeled
her and the training program said she wasn’t capable
of anything but greasing fries and signaling with
a gang one two one fight, but she’s capable of
doing life. The baby will live. Her mother marches
every Saturday with Saint Anthony of Padua Parish
holding the Our Lady of Guadeloupe sign.
She is still there this dawn as I do my usual loiter—
inhale the fresh rain and indulge. The Mattress Discount store
flashes sexy couples in the window. I think of touching someone
I want to love me back. I inhale the squashed kiwi
left outside the all night grocery and dream
I am growing to something good like the electric light up
saint of sorrow in the Catholic shop window or a dogwood tree
offering baths to pigeons with wet leaves. I shake some
berries off this morning meal prepared for me.

Michelle Askin
Michelle AskinMichelle Askin’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in 2River View, Oranges & Sardines, Offcourse, Willard & Maple, Verdad, and elsewhere. She works and lives in Virginia.