We would caterwaul to high heaven
when the rains halted,
as my mother would say.
We knew that my mother would be tending to the laundry.
Saturday chores. From hamper to wringer
washing machine. To the clothesline
with pillowcases and sheets and tablecloths
and daddy’s boxers and my trainer bras
all suspended with clothespins. Our clean laundry
on display for the whole neighborhood to see.
The women would gather at the fence, where the four yards
converged. There would be gossip in between
slurps of Maxwell House.
We stole clothespins from my mother’s cotton bag,
affixed Bicycle playing cards
to the spokes of our two-wheelers.
Mine was a purple Schwinn, with a pink
padded seat. Camelia’s was a Huffy
banana seat bike, with silver and gold
variegated tassels suspended from the handles.
Her seat was plush velveteen yellow,
with extra padding. Even the pedals
sported neon lights which glowed.
If I gave her a dime, she let me ride
her shiny vehicle around the cul-de-sac. Just once.
If I gave her a quarter, she let me ride no-handed,
pretending I was Evil Knievel navigating a field
of oak barrels and discarded junkers.
But the best of times were right after a heavy rain,
when the storm sewers just couldn’t handle the deluge.
The whole subdivision flooded, murky waters
oozing up over curbs, over sidewalks, over
my father’s manicured corner lot of sod, right up
to the Sugar Maple next to the front door. A neighborhood
of frantic parents admonished us, warning us not to go near
the tainted water. You’ll catch encephalitis, Frankie’s father shouted.
You’ll contract typhoid fever, Patricia’s mom, still in her petunia
patterned apron, yelled. You’re sure to get salmonellosis,
howled Old Man Rzemplinski.
But our rambunctious desire was muscular, more tumultuous
than any of their warnings. We plunged our bikes and our bodies
into this suburban tsunami. Drenched in all manner of
slime and sludge, we peddled with a frenetic passion,
the click-clack of the playing cards creating an underwater rhythm
that propelled us over curbs, onto the easement of crabgrass,
making circle eights on the groomed sod.
Nothing could deter us,
save the moment the streetlights came on.
And on those nights, we all received a thorough scrubbing,
our parents determined to eliminate the chance
of our pubescent bodies succumbing to unpronounceable diseases.
We were scoured in tubs of chlorine – a kill-all for any rabid germs
under our nails, in our orifices, between our muddied toes.
We were tucked in, covers up to our chins, reminded to
Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite,
our bodies spanking, sparkling clean.
After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne is now nurturing her own creative spirit. She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016). Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Journal, Gyroscope Review, among others. Marianne was a finalist for the Naugatuck River Review Narrative Poetry Contest (2020), and she was longlisted for the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize (2021). Further, she received 3rd Place Poetry Award in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Contest. In addition, her chapbook was a finalist in Comstock Review’s Jesse Brice Niles Chapbook Contest. She has a collection of poetry, No Distance Between Us, published in 2021 by Shadelandhouse Modern Press.