American Portrait (5)
by Ken Harnisch
One night, Lester McCarron noisily folds his newspaper
And glances at his wife
Who is too engrossed in HBO
To notice him at first
When she does, the look hes giving her
Chills her heart a bit
And she says, What? What?
Eyes dancing sideways to the stairs, Lester says,
Do you think Karlene is having sex?
What kind of question
his wife says indignantly
Of course not, shes only seventeen.
She just got back from her missionary work
Shes Gods child, pure as snow
How could you even think
Lester stares again, more cognizant than his wife perhaps
Of that unsaid part of her biography
How in 1969, she too was a Christian girl
Whose boyfriend was quite insistent
On all too many warm Wisconsin nights
That if God had anything against sex
He wouldnt have made it so beautiful
So pure, so wonderful
It is not something they talk about much,
Lester being the type not to remind himself of his days
As a salesman
And his wife, not wanting to be reminded
How easy she was to sell.
That was different, his wife says, after a pause.
Those were wild times.
Drugs. The War. Woodstock.
For a moment, they both seem lost in a reminiscent fog
Both conjuring the aborted trip to Yasgurs farm
In a lime-green VW Microbus.
They got as far as Sandusky, Ohio
And spent the night near a cornfield
With no thought to God, His laws, or consequence
Until they got back home
Its not that different now, Lester says. Only by degree.
But his wife is adamant. No, she says
A woman would know. No.
The clock ticks on the mantelpiece
And Mrs. McCarron goes on watching the Sopranos
Until the clomping on the stairs
Announces Karlenes attempted flight outside.
And where do you think youre going, young lady? Mrs. M. says,
Her wrathful voice like buckshot burst.
The girl just shrugs, and shakes a blond head suddenly
Seeming to Lester to be dazzling and oh-so-beautiful
That he winces, looking to his wife as if hes looking in the mirror
So many years ago.
Out, Karlene says. With John.
Youll do no such thing, Karlene, her mother says.
And change that skirt. Its much too short.
And who said you could wear lip gloss
The girl just gapes in pure astonishment
Tears bursting from her eyes.
Looking to her father for support
But he just says, in an even voice, Do what your mother says, Kar.
Do what your mother says.
When the house is quiet and the girls sobs have receded some
Mr. McCarron folds his newspaper and says
We could have handled that better, dont you think?
And Mrs. McCarron, who sees at last, says,
Why? What does it matter anymore?
The barn doors closed, the horse is out.
Youre right. Is that what you wanted to hear?
Yet, the knot of black fear in her throat
Is not for her daughter
But for the conflicted girl
She thought she knew
Once, in the summer of Peace and Love.
Author's Note: I wrote this in August, 2001...a month later, for obvious reasons( as shall be seen), I wrote American 6, which, again for obvious reasons, became the last in the series.....
Posted on 01/10/2003
Copyright © 2022 Ken Harnisch
|Member Comments on this Poem|
|Posted by Kate Demeree on 01/12/03 at 01:51 PM|
I for one shall be sad to see the series end as I enjoy them alot. You impart so much in these tales and they never leave your readers wanting. Looking forward to reading 6.