Mural with HUD Housing & School Bus (1980)
When 213b finally opens in a crack of yellow linoleum, Garrett comes out with the left side of his afro as flat as the tire that used to be on his mom’s car & the stuck snick of the cheap door locking behind him sounds exactly like someone trying to light a smoke with an empty lighter. Carriage House East, where menthols cough like a window slamming shut & outside that window, somebody’s radio is already popping static. What’s left of the moon is popping white on blue. That’s when we stamp past the squat HUD brick toward school in the dark: shadow of the green trash can gang signed with misspellings, a mimeograph of Mickey Mouse flipping Iran the bird in the landlord’s lit window. We made the same middle-finger motion to the school bus before ignoring our bus stop & kept walking neighborhood- style—right hands skimming from chest down to waist then behind the back like a bad breast-stroker cupping air. Cue the sirens snagging the matted air like a cheap pick. Cue the smoker’s cough of early-morning walks to school. We strutted a backward lean like every one of the unconcerned streetlamps alternating between our side of the street & over there—in front of the fenced-in porches missing slats like teeth in a punched smile where Garrett’s cousin leaned against the side of one of the front buildings. She put two-fingered guns to her temples when she saw us: red patch of smoker’s skin around her mouth like a raw sun rising.
About this Poem
"I visited the Museum of Modern Art last spring and spent time with David Alfaro Siqueiros’s painting, 'Echo of a Scream (1937).' I got spun out by the way he creates tension and movement through the interlocking details in the painting. This poem began as an emulation of Siqueiros’s compositional style and, in the process, became an ekphrastic aubade about my old neighborhood."
Adrian Matejka is the author of The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), which was nominated for both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.
Date Published: 2013-11-22
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/mural-hud-housing-school-bus-1980