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  • Poetry by Merrill Lee Girardeau

Ode To Youth

Photo by Mekea Larson

The parade glitters down Fifth Avenue. Chance and dancing, breast-bearing

and sweat. My roommate is leaving the city today. She is too young for a breakup

so bitter,

too young for a merciless panic on the downtown 5. But there she is,

Band-Aid on her temple, Bloody Mary in her hand. I sit meekly,

sipping iced coffee in a slick furniture showroom

with a few friends and strangers, looking over

the brass bands and roller-skating drag queens and the man, probably seventy,

wearing a ball sling and a bandanna. I—we—are stained

by small, nice places. The personality quizzes on Elizabeth Johnson’s old Dell

told me I embody individuality, crave uniqueness, like a peacock

or Luna Lovegood. In another life, I couldn’t afford

an obsession with selfhood. Elizabeth, the child of older parents,

had the basement all to herself. Her dad Bruce painted it lime green. Natives

call us fresh,

as if we’ve been plucked from comely orchards. Pure rubes.

I wrote a poem about the prettiness that spills off the L. My teacher said

the simple fact of youth is beautiful, and the fact was a comfort.

Later I was troubled by the vision of every green girl in the city aged,

terrified of windows. Mistakes unmade, bad eggs unsung. I don’t have to worry

about an errant child. So I invent one: my friend, the one the city scolded

and shattered. I pray over her room when she’s away, like a mother, begging.

- Merrill Lee Girardeau

Photo by Mekea Larson

Follow: @mekealarson

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