First there are the suicides.
There is Muriel whose love
stopped kissing her freckled fingers, there’s Lila who
died for honor after the incident in the alley, there’s Mary
Anne with long eyes, who understood too much of the world
and spoiled all of the love potions, there’s Frances who went
mad, frowning and biting, kissing and drawing blood, running
naked down Forty-Second Street in the early evening while
everyone else settled down for their dinners of steak and
peas, worrying about their rosebushes and wondering why
God made the long-stemmed dandelions at all.
Next come, warily, the mothers. There is Mrs. Mulberry who once
tried acid and thought she was a glass of orange juice, there’s Miss
Pinkleton who turned to Jesus after her abortion, there’s Mrs.
Sweeney who is still secretly afraid of the tall black boys who
wear their pants around their knees, there’s Mrs. Dean whose life
has been sleepy and soft until now, full of the most beautiful
kitchen appliances, white and gleaming, and her long-legged children
with stringy hair who crouch in the dirt playing house with berries
and needles, playing school with her dusty knitting books and
doctor with the neighbor boys.
Finally there are the moderns. There is Leslie who cut off all her
curls, there is Sam who smokes cigarettes by the playground and
covers the swings with her ashes, there’s Chelsea who is all bone,
who would sooner spread herself across the gummy sidewalk
than taste the soup, there is Andie her buddy who
does not read fashion magazines, who if they were not so
modern would lie down next to Chelsea and kiss her dark face, ash-
soft and matted with hair.