Mira Martin Parker
In the Street Like Crazy
A shadowed doorway. Huddling, holding. Discretely. Another passes. Flailing. It’s lunchtime. Next come the girls from the office. A security guard. A wheelchair. Across on Mission, a man shouts at a lady wearing no bra and flip-flops. Afterwards there are barefoot bearded ones. With shopping bags and rolling carts. Pitbulls tied with a handkerchiefs. Curbside campers. Parked and invisible. Bubble gum and paper cups. Plastic lids and backpacks. Strollers. MUNI. Scooters. A corncob. A pigeon. Piss. Heat. A garbage can with its side open. Trash tipping out. A metal cage at the top. Recycled offerings. The sharing economy.
When the wind blows, my apartment building shakes. I sweep for hours and hours. I clean. I wipe. I polish. Some people don’t mind being scruffy, their hair hanging oily, their blouses righteously dirty. Me, I can’t wait that long. My shoes are always new, my black clothes never faded. I hate being in an old car. I hate pulling into a service station with trash on the front seat. Especially if there are also children in the car. Like my little brothers and sisters. My dad never minded, though. Never felt ashamed. No one fucked with him. Angry-faced. Able to pass, just enough to defend his turf. Kept an axe between the front seats of his car. Me, I never feel safe. I dodge the back and forth. I duck and cover. I comb, scrub, sweep, and run.
Walters, Cotton, Oklahoma, U.S.A.
Your house. A small wire fence. Everything covered in dust. The trees are bare and the sky is gray. Trees are always bare and skies are always gray, in places where women are poor, searching for shoes and shirts and other things that fit. They try so hard to wash up, wash off, untangle, and braid, while their men drink and trade, trucks and goods, and their children become angry, like the dogs. Eventually they all run away.
But the rule is you must return. To care, to cook, to clean. To wait. The eternal view from the front porch, where love comes in rusted pails and broken tools, in pans and pots and hot irons. It’s always there, like the sky and the wind. It’s always been there. In the sound of the screen door swinging closed. Then silence.
Toxic Stress Response
A little note on cardboard. Painted with a colored Sharpie. I don’t do messaging. Don’t Facebook. Shit happens. Spare some change? I suppose Mother was right. I should bounce back, like everyone else, and serve. Freely. Resiliently. Why make such a fuss? I have always been so much trouble. Always such a burden. So angry. Just like Father. Crazy. I guess it’s the card I was dealt. Don’t blame her. Blame Dad. Blame society. But not her. Never her. Mother is perfect. Mothers are always perfect. It’s just the way it is and ought to be.
“Mommy, where do bad decisions come from?”
“The stork brings them. Look, up in the sky, here comes one now.”
The world is full of the lost and those filled with shame. Moving on, seeking new appliances, toasters, an iPhone. Games and such. Group on! Groups. Masses. Social networks. I don’t want to discuss them. Classes are more interesting. Complex webs that mingle, connected and grounded in something. Art. Smears on concrete, parking lots littered with rusted bottle caps. Tin cans and hubcaps and pavement. Hot in the sun. Left and forgotten. Bits of trash. Give me an old steamship. Give me a peasant dressed in an apron and scarf, smiling up at the camera. We pretend we are someone of position, someone important. We pretend we are leaders, achievers. Goal oriented. That’s silly. There is no position here. Just want. Just white shirts and clean panties. New shoes. All dressed up. And lipstick. Me? I prefer biscuits and something fried and served on toast. Covered in rich gravy. You can call it a breakfast sandwich. I call it substance.
Mira Martin Parker earned a BA at The New School for Social Research, and an MA in philosophy and an MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University. Their work has appeared in various publications, including the Istanbul Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, great weather for MEDIA, and Zyzzyva. Parker’s collection of short stories, The Carpet Merchant’s Daughter, won the 2013 Five [Quarterly] e-chapbook competition.