By Angele Ellis
Denied toy guns by Mother, my brothers sculpted
barrels & triggers from Wonder Bread, clown-spotted
loaves of soft white slices promising to build strong
bodies twelve ways. Outdoing the Commandments,
which in those years of gray censorship wavering across
a convex screen, we watched broken every day.
I don’t just mean cops & robbers or cowboys & Indians
or Russkies & secret agents or Nazis & war heroes.
I mean we saw Oswald shot in real time, pained
surprise on his face as he clutched his sweatered guts.
Chris was five. He said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,
do they, Mommy?” Still no solution to that equation.
Vietnam crept up to the dinner table in those shadows—
& then the assassination year, King & another Kennedy,
cities crackling with fire & flame—London during the Blitz,
a hundred million charcoal briquettes doused with gasoline.
My brothers ambushing & wrestling, although I think
they shot each other less by then. We didn’t get a color set
until Super Bowl III. Now comes the year of Super Bowl L
& still endless war. Despite technology, notions of nobility
remain graven in Roman numerals on temple walls.
Wind helps me sweep my steps of snow, whiter than
a militiaman’s fantasy, while pines stand like sentinels.
In the heart of this city, stillness like the volume turned down.
I bring a handful of crystals to my mouth: cold and
chemical as Wonder Bread, or my own wracked body.
From Under the Kaufmann’s Clock: Fiction, Poems, and Photographs of Pittsburgh by Angele Ellis, with photographs by Rebecca Clever (Six Gallery Press, 2016). Copyright Angele Ellis. First published in Rogue Agent Journal.
About the Author
Angele Ellis is a longtime writer, editor, and community activist whose first book, Dealing With Differences: Taking Action on Class, Race, Gender, and Disability (Corwin Press), coauthored with Marilyn Llewellyn, was named as a top multicultural classroom resource by The Christian Science Monitor. She also is the author of Arab on Radar (Six Gallery Press), Spared (Main Street Rag), and Under the Kaufmann’s Clock, with photographs by Rebecca Clever (Six Gallery).