Days at Laclede Place
by Anuradha Bhowmik
My friends rode low bikes and Razor scooters
to the blue vinyl-sided triplex and knocked on
the deadbolt door to ask Ma if I could come out.
She never let me leave the parking lot, so I saved
colored chalk for hopscotch. The boys brought
a boombox and Andy Capp’s Hot Fries that left
red flecks on our fingertips, licked clean. The girls
bought Bubblicious. We rocked our hula-hoop hips
to Sisquo’s Thong Song until freeze tag time,
when we sat in a circle with our feet in the center,
chanting bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish to pick
who was It before we ran across cracked concrete,
calling time-out to chase the ice cream truck turning
the corner. During hide & seek I’d sneak off search
for coins and Happy Meal toys under the squeaky
staircase, where we sat on wooden steps to trade
Pokémon cards. I wore a red snapback backwards
like Ash Ketchum, held holographic cards in plastic
sleeves. They turned empty pockets inside-out.
Sitting on milk crates, we clapped to Concentration 64
and stitched plastic lace into lanyards until dark,
when Ma dragged me in to eat, and my friends left,
running and riding past the McDonald’s light,
past sneakers strung from power lines, the alleyway
echo of air conditioners dripping onto pavements,
past trash bins piled high with Heinekens
and Coronas beside brownstones and tenements
with steel fire escapes we climbed up, while I
watched them leave from my second-story window.
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