Propriety

By  |  June 11, 2019
Photo by Jayne Vidheecharoen via Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Jayne Vidheecharoen via Flickr Creative Commons

 

My mother turns off the kitchen light
before looking out the window

and half-hidden behind green apple
curtains, takes her nightly inventory 

of the neighborhood. That one who asked us
last week for bread, her boyfriend rolls through

to collect the check. The father of one of the girls 
drops a bag of groceries on the porch and

drives off. A scratch and thump means 
the drunk above us is home.  Every multi-family dwelling

has one. Count our own and we have
two. In my room I kneel before my bed

writing poems, and in the attic my mother
waits for my father (who earlier hurled a hacksaw 

at my brother) to fall through the trapdoor of sleep. 
Then she’ll return to the costume

and sew all night. Another variation
on Spanish dancer.  This is what sets us apart 

from our neighbors, she tells herself. We work hard 
to keep it together. Submerged in lavender I listen to birds 

heckle me from the sage bush: It is not the eighties, your parents
are dead, it is noon. Let the family break apart, let 

the neighbors look in. To see the frayed sofa? I ask,
panicking. The eggshells on the floor? 


Rosa Alcalá reads “Propriety”

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Rosa Alcalá is a poet and translator originally from Paterson, New Jersey. Her most recent book of poetry is MyOTHER TONGUE. She teaches in the Bilingual MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Texas–El Paso.