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Sarah Ansani
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40

Sarah Ansani

When I was a tramp picking oranges from California branches,
prancing foot to foot between green leaves,
learning to whistle tunes between the trees,
ones my mom used to sing, till she became just another
track on the railroad to God, that circle of life that I see
formed on the cracked lips of tramps,
in front of their yellowed teeth and tongues numbed
by drink and chew that plastered the walls
of boxcars and made the hay beds stick to my skin
in black-brown blotches like old band-aid glue
that did not rub off in the rain that I cried
in that night when that bust down boxcar took off
without the old man in the red sweatpants and his rusted
harmonica, Veronica, that charmed us for a while between Estacada
and Metaline where out of line children
stuck out their tongues then pulled them back in
as if they could taste my air that lingered
like smells from bakeries or like the memories
of sprinklers on the lawn and the rainbow it formed,
or how I traced my finger along the orange arch,
that see-through ribbon of air, or the memory
of that harmonica’s song and how as the others danced
I rolled my marble along the floor from hand to hand
and sat in my own splintered corner of the car
watching cows pass as if they were all just cows,
just hide and flesh and grass, just like we were all
just tramps traveling the miles between here
and there, trading matches for razors so I can cut
my hair to the length it was when I saw my first cow
or ate my first orange, and sharpen my nails for those nights
when I felt something between my legs, my lips,
my newspaper bedding, my arms and breast, or so I could better
climb the trees higher where the best oranges grew
like suns forming on shoulders of giants where I would
also stand still and stretch out my arm wondering
if the tree would adopt me as limb and let me blossom
green leaves and orange oranges from my palms
and call them mine, and form dew rather than phlegm from my lips, sap
rather than tears from my eyes that were always clean
like the skin under the ring or the watch I pawned
for more matches, a gallon of water, a magazine
with a woman that looked like my mom on the cover, dog biscuits
so to get along with mutts, loaves of bread
so to get along with men that provided the condoms
already used in Sioux falls where the rocks looked orange
as the sun went down and towns felt safer
because when it got quiet, the water drifted
people to a deep sleep that drowned the shuffling
of our feet past plastic pink flamingos and mailboxes
waiting for letters that we often stole in attempts
to have families that wished us merrys and happys
and my favorites, the sorrys that finally found me
without socks, a blackened eye, marble in my pocket,
a quarter, dime, and nickel with a face on one side,
and a home on the other, but they all meant nothing
when put together at the corner bakery where the smells
linger and then they meant nothing again as I remembered the harmonica,
the orange arch of air in the sprinklers,
and how the oranges were ahead of us and the tramps pulled
me up from my corner for a dance to a tune for the trees
and when they all shuffled off the floor for another drink,

I danced a little more.

 

 

Sarah Ansani is a recent graduate of Sweet Briar College and is pushing forward to earn her M.F.A. in poetry at Chatham University. She is published in Sweet Briar College’s literary journal, Red Clay and is also published in North Central Review. Her writing revolves around her various interests such as the working-class-hero, blue collar lifestyles, survival in all its mechanisms and forms, tramps/hobos/bums, among many other areas of interest. She finds all this so interesting because those lifestyles and ideals are where true passion lies. Or so she believes!

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