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When Menthol Was Queen

No blue beckons so much as chlorine blue,
bottom of the pool blue, faintly bearing the faces
of flushed mothers, astringent partner to rubber loungers
welded to the backs of the knees in seconds.

We of the inland summers crave only this blue,
this gorgeous replica doubled and rocking
beneath even a fierce sky. Now we know
what they were doing when they raced away

in their hot bucket seats, our mothers, craving
a smoke on the patio, the long coil of phone cord
caught in a screen door. Fuchsia Jell-O and orange shag
nothing to the long gash of turquoise

to which they delivered us. And thirty years
before we even wondered where they went or why.
The satisfaction of an entire knotty-pine kitchen
scrubbed in Liquid Gold only lasts so long,

and cans of pillow mint green meant to cover
every inch of the garage yield up only enough
bright toxin for a season, beyond which we
of the bar codes, box stores, and breast pumps

are expected to proceed differently. And do,
though the arrow will eventually find us too,
bring us back to the blue wedge from which
we can finally see her huddled in the cove

between spruces out back where her smoke rises
into the cool prickle and pucker, delivering her
from each fierce escape she can imagine,
all her fancy, hanker, and aim in blue dissolve.

Leslie Adrienne Miller

Graywolf Press

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