In a pizza place off an alley
we fed coins into the jukebox and danced
between waitresses and red-checked tablecloths
—jumping beans, wiggle worms,
clutch of girls bouncing to a music menu.
Song replaced song at the jab of two buttons.
Daily specials were wiped clear, new ones chalked,
and I realized I could change temperaments
like T-shirts anytime I felt like it.
I was self-contained as a hermit crab
in class and on the playground or sitting
in outfield, building stick houses as balls sailed by,
but that day I sprang from my restaurant chair
and my friends followed suit,
full of cake and sauce and “Sugar, Sugar,”
and even as a sentence drifted through my brain
—This is not what you do—
another one settled in: Now it is.
Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo, and makes her husband laugh in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Nimrod, Chattahoochee Review, Tar River Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and New Ohio Review. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was recently published by Kelsay Books.
© 2022, Sarah Carleton