Summer in the City
I want to climb inside this fan,
feel the cool breeze from its inside. The wind
is coldest at its core, I think. Then again,
one July day back in the Maple Avenue flat,
Mom and Daddy and I watched as the gray-blue
box fan in the bedroom window became
some Independence nightmare: a shrieking whirr
and a barrage of yellow barbed sparks
shooting across the polyester bedspread
as the blades drifted to death. Like Satan himself
was hiding, not in sinners’ hearts like Billy Graham said
on the TV that kept me up at night, but
deep in the heart of this human device made
to keep us comfortable. Serves you right.
Who said that? Everyone. Pride goeth
before fire. Air conditioning was for people
who deserved it, the normal families
in full houses with wall-to-wall and dogs
and cars. Everything worked in the Bradys’ house.
The Waltons slept in open-windowed virtue.
I whined at the heat. Now, nearing fifty,
I sit in a grownup office in a big city,
a fallen woman who watches talk shows on Sunday,
and wish I was standing in my childhood kitchen
with my shaggy head stuck in the freezer,
smelling aging burgers and sweet Birds-Eye peas.