Waiting at the Curb: Lynwood, California, 1967

for Deborah Escobedo

When the porch light snaps on,
Moths come alive around its orange glow.
Mother pushes open the screen door and calls,
Viejo. It’s Laugh-In.” Father is watering
His lawn, the one green he can count on. He can’t count
On money, or his Dodgers slipping on the green
Carpet of Chavez Ravine and into third place,
With nineteen games to go. “Be right there,” Father says,
And then considers his daughter emerging in cutoffs
Cut too short. And what’s with the gypsy blouse
And those 45 records on her thumb?
Maybe he could speak his mind about decency,
Maybe he could lift his hose and spray off this girl child
Who has gone too far. But he rolls the garden hose
Onto the sling of his arm. “Debbie, where are you going
With no clothes on?” he asks. The daughter spins
The records on her thumb, and answers,
“Dad, this is how it is.” She steps off the porch,
Cuts across the wet lawn, and waits at the curb
For a friend in her own cutoffs, for music that speaks to them,
For their cheeks collapsing from the pull on a paper straw.
She turns when the neighbor’s screen door opens—
A woman in curlers yells to her old man, “It’s Laugh-In.”
America is getting ready,
America is shoveling ice cream into Tupperware bowls,
America is setting up trays in front of snowy TVs.
This daughter wags a shaggy head of hair at the old folks,
Pulls at her cutoffs creeping up. I gotta get outta here,
She thinks, and spins the music of her time
On what could be a hitchhiker’s thumb.

:: Gary Soto, in Green Mountains Review (18:2, 2005)

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