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We knotted the rubber
bands in a circle,
called the game
Chinese jump rope—
who knows why.

Alice knew the rules,
starting at the ankles,
first-level jump patterns
of a complicated step-and-stretch.

A tuneless hokey-pokey,
feet in, then out—
we were careful not to
snap too fast,
lacerate our bare legs.

Bare because I, for one,
preferred to risk sting
over wrinkle & ridge at my ankles
from falling-down pantyhose.

Because I was too skinny
to wear them in the first place—
shame my payback
for wanting them so bad.

We hopped.
Scissored to the soundtrack of hiss,
Ann Marie’s mother on her porch,
a steam iron warming.
The rubber bands moved up.

We spun.
Negotiated the roller coaster,
its one end higher, Diana Ross
singing “Stop in the Name of Love”
on my transistor radio.
The rubber bands moved up.

We jumped.
Innocent days,
the (inevitable) hungers
un-begun.

Soon, there would be hands
to shiver my timbers,
and hopscotch forever ceded
to fever, to “having the hots.”

But
not
just
yet.

I was still playing.
Fancy-prance one more
out-in-side-on, an elastic X
to mark the spot.

Higher, higher, then higher.
Eventually up to—
this meant winning—
my neck.

 


Nancy Flynn grew up on the Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania, spent many years on a downtown creek in Ithaca, New York, and now lives near the mighty Columbia in Portland, Oregon. She attended Oberlin College, Cornell University, and has an English M.A. from SUNY/Binghamton. Recipient of an Oregon Literary Fellowship, her recent books include Every Door Recklessly Ajar and Great Hunger. Her website is www.nancyflynn.com.

© 2018, Nancy Flynn

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