Flies sit on the covered jars
of jujubes, chocolate babies,
bulls eyes that turn colors
when you suck them.
“The Way You Look Tonight”
is playing on the bakelite radio.
“A hot one,” says the man behind the counter,
flicking his tongue over his thick lips.
Even at seventeen, my mother knows
he doesn’t mean the weather.
For a nickel, she punches
through five holes of the punch board,
unscrolls the rolled up papers.
Three say “You Lose,” one says “Try Again,”
the last “You win a free ice cream.”
He hands her a Dixie cup with a wooden spoon.
She doesn’t say “Thank You,”
doesn’t want him to feel he’s given her a gift.
She’d like to eat the ice cream
beneath the breeze of the ceiling fan,
but this man’s eyes are boring through her.
Outside she opens the lid.
Joan Crawford’s picture is under it.
There’s something fierce about her mouth.
That’s the way a pretty woman needs to look.
Joan Crawford can eat ice cream anywhere.