Also, there were channels. And TVs. We drank
milk, soaked sugar in bowls of it until it turned
pink or baby blue. Choices were underwhelming
no matter where you shopped, which is something
you had to put on clothes and leave the house
to do. The only brands we considered were ones
our parents couldn’t afford. We couldn’t tell
the difference between the cartoons
and the commercials, so we made it all one big
soap opera. There’s this bear. He loves cleaning
the dishes and racing Hot Wheels. He wants
a new car and a functioning middle class
he can join with an affordable education.
Then a spaceship lands in the back yard and a bunch
of puppets get out. Show us on this Barbie where
we touched you, they said. We fell for it every time
because we didn’t know which playset came with
Barbie’s feelings of abandonment. When there was
nothing on TV, we played in cardboard boxes
in the middle of the road, which we also lived in.
During the winter, the walls were freezing.
In the morning, the light hurt our eyes, but
a doctor would have said there was nothing
wrong with us, if we ever saw a doctor. Instead
we had fresh air, which smelled like fish and
stagnant water. Standing there in our underoos,
sticky faces and hands, conjunctivitis, we didn’t know
what hope was. We didn’t know our parents loved
and resented us. We didn’t know they couldn’t
afford us. That’s why God invented channels,
so we would just be quiet for a moment, so they
could think about what to do.
CL Bledsoe is the author of seventeen books, most recently the poetry collection Trashcans in Love and the novel The Funny Thing About… . He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter and blogs, with Michael Gushue, at https://medium.com/@howtoeven.
Michael Gushue is co-publisher—with Dan Vera—of the nanopress Poetry Mutual. His most recent book is I Never Promised You a Sea Monkey, a collaboration with CL Bledsoe. His other books are Pachinko Mouth (Plan B Press, 2013), Conrad (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2010), and Gathering Down Women (Pudding House Press, 2007).