The Playgrounds

by Emily Carnevale (Denison Univ.)

At eight, I took Mel Dodge to the top of the monkey bars and said "I like like you."
He fell off the bars, flapping his arms and 'ew'ed in desperation. Yesterday, my mother
told me that she'd been married twice. She used her wedding photo as cardboard backing
to press my acrylic pastoral against the gass. It still hangs over my bed when I sleep
and I pretend not to notice my mother slip in to watch me breathe.
Dad has secrets too--he added cocaine to the list of drugs that calm his anxiety
and I remember how he sat me down and chastised me after learning
that I liked a black boy from the inner city. We still microwave popcorn on movie night,
but now he hides the salt and butter. After you smoked with me,
the popcorn didn't taste plain anymore. The fumes from the bowl
made me think of summer campfires--how the smoke disappears into the stars
and I savor the burnt marshmallows on your lips and the melting chocolate on your tongue. I
found your mouth and blew myself into you when you needed to breathe. You shared your
lungs with me. We moved like a see-saw-- going up and down. Up and down.