Strong Verse
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Poetry By
  Fred Longworth

Published on: 10/18/2007
Downtown San Diego, 1953

Sometimes it was Marston's, sometimes Huneck's,
sometimes Walker-Scott's. But always, Mother shopped
in Better Women's Clothing, nostrils and a bridge
above Sears or J.C. Penney. She did this ten or twenty
Saturdays a month - or so it seemed to a six-year-old.
And I was certain she wanted to change me into a girl
through sheer cross-exposure.

On one expedition, as she dragged me on the tethers
of her tongue like a reluctant housepet, another mother
walked by, cheaply dressed, pushing a stroller
with an infant. Two boys followed, side by side,
laughing. Mother flashed me a look she was too
polite to give the woman - my lesson for the day
in social class.

Envious, I posed an only-child's wish. She glanced
away as she replied, as if the answer could only cross
between us through a narrow passageway of sound.
She said that giving birth to one child had nearly
killed her.

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