Leftover Halloween Candy (from ten years ago)
When I was searching for a photo of my black-eyed “P” costume, I stumbled across this poem from a college writing class in 2001. It makes me feel really old to think that this was 10 years ago. Anyway, here it is, such as it is.
More important than the quality (or lack there of) of the poem is that working on it–and all the other writing I did for the class–is the fact that this was the beginning of me taking myself seriously as a writer.
That’s a treat that hasn’t gotten stale, not even after ten years.
Also kind of cool to see that, even then, I was thinking about how immigrants experience America.
Halloween and the Fifth Month
At dusk, autumn’s fingers tug at branches,
Sending the last leaves spiraling to the ground.
Neighbors tell Rosina, recently arrived, that tonight
Children will come knocking for candy.
This is to her empty as the turkey she helped prepare
Last year in Uncle’s home or the other days
With tiny printed names marked off in red on her calendar.
Celebrating what? No one here seems able to say.
Rosina knows only the view from her own front porch,
The things she can touch, name in her own language:
The maple tree shivering, clumps of earth
Along the sidewalk, three figures approaching,
Faces shadowed and green in the streetlight.
The members of this raggedy band—Elvis, a cat, and a beheaded lizard—
Lift their sing-song voices that join on Sundays in chorus, chanting
Words that Rosina cannot make out. She sees instead rows of tiny teeth
Punctuating smooth pink tongues. And then their fists plunge
Into her basket of taffies, which jostles against the early
Rounding of her belly.
She hears the rustle of wrapper against wrapper as candy
Tumbles into their bulging bags. Elvis and the reptile
Scuttle away, but the cat wavers. Her whiskers
Droop from her jowls, and she looks at Rosina who gazes back.
Rosina imagines that the dim confusion on the cat’s face
Mirrors her own (it is, after all, a terrible time to be left alone),
But suddenly the cat pounces and snatches the heavy candy basket.
Her gray tail flops down the steps as she scampers away.
Taffies thud-thud across the path, forming a haphazard constellation
By which Rosina will chart her course.