Telling Time by Tiling

Telling Time by Tiling

The square tiles in the kitchen
remind me of playing
hopscotch, of jagged
chalk outlines, of slipping,
of my parents’ generation
and their Risky Business
and how some things
are timeless, and some
are dissolved memories

I think of an old
collection of socks
from hospital stays,
the kind that stick
to slick, shiny floors,
fuzzy saviors that
will never let you fall

When I was young I
wondered if they served
Kid Cuisine meals in
prison while I looked
for designs in the
linoleum of another kitchen
on Duchess Street,
my feet in thin, white,
grey tinged lace cuffed
school uniform socks,
the bad kind for
sliding, but I
did it till the
microwave ding sounded,
wondering how
can possibly be
real or achievable
except on TV

While eating cold cuts
with my sister, I would tell her
to bite little holes in the bologna
to pretend we lived on the street
and found these bits of food
in an alley
A therapist would later ask me
if these were merely childish
fantasies or the early warning signs
of having deep empathy
I dunno, maybe
The tiles in her lobby,
like her face,
are warped and ugly

I prayed for my
incarcertated uncle
after giving thanks
for my meal of
dinosaur shaped
mystery meat they
called chicken

I remembered a
story, one told
while drunk, of
that uncle
busting his butt
while cutting a
rug to a Johnny Cash song
in this same kitchen

He used to cheat at
hopscotch, at everything really,
then he got caught
The food is too hot,
pasty mashed potatoes
and a corn watered down
Yesterday’s leftovers
congeal in the corner
and there’s now a hole in
my sock to match the one
in my heart

There’s a missed call
from county on the caller ID,
and there’s little me
with all my too big thoughts
rising around the tray as steam

Published by Jennifer Patino


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