JENNIFER JACKSON BERRY
Jennifer Jackson Berry currently works as a claims adjuster for a mass transit bus
line in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA). She holds degrees from the University of
Pittsburgh and Indiana Universityís MFA program. Her poetry has appeared in
elimae, 5AM, and Pearl and is forthcoming in the Chaffey Review.
When I Was a Girl
I met who I'd love my future child to be
in a church basement. His name was Marshall
& a group of us were there for a Lenten fish fry.
He brought our plates to the table & his sister was the goofy girl
taking orders for sandwiches & haluski,
a fish-shaped hat on her head.
The worst I'd imagine for them would rival my worst
when I was a girl: shaping brownies into dog shit,
then splashing a little lemonade on the front porch
so Staci's mom would think Duke left her a present.
Women present pee sticks to their husbands
to announce pregnancies. I'm doing everything
now to try to conceive, but I'm feeling old.
We passed a Le Car parked in a driveway
on the way home from a church youth group outing.
Giggling, Le road, Le tree, Le tulips, Le radio, Le Le Le.
Then Staci whispered to me, Le Jeff.
Jeff was the boy she liked. Staci was my best friend,
the pastorís daughter, who eventually screwed
me out of all of my grade school friends
in the first year of junior high.
I blurted out Le Jeff in repetition, not getting
the double entendre until a moment too late.
I then Le-ed every name I could think of to cover up.
I was sure the group leader driving was fooled.
Back then, I also didn't get the mice screwing
in a light bulb joke. Two, but they have to be small.
A third friend claimed to try to reunite me & Staci
at all-night bowling during one fight, before the big break.
We were at parallel lanes & when we'd step up at the same time,
Amy would loudly say, Look at those two friends.
I fear I am too small in their memories to matter.
I'm sure it wasn't reunion, but my embarrassment, Amy sought.
I cried when I read Odd Girl Out:
The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls
for a graduate class. I had never articulated
the power of the shun before.
Amy was one of the friends I lost. I don't know why
I mourned: she was part of the group years earlier
who orchestrated abandonment: 1-2-3! at the top of their lungs
& the whole group ran away from me on the playground.
Le Car was sold in the United States from 1976 to 1986.
It was already an old car when we drove by it that day.
My family didn't leave the church right away.
Facing ice cream socials & rummage sales alone aged me.
I was already old when I was thirteen.
I've only bought pregnancy tests twice in my life.
The first time, I was nineteen and hadn't even had sex yet.
I gave too much power to the pre-cum.
I was late & scared. The second time I wasn't
a girl anymore. The clerk said Good luck
when she handed me the bag.
She had obviously practiced the phrase,
because it could have gone either way. Good luck
& I wish for you a future of Sunday School, bumper
bowling & best friends.
Staci has two daughters in grade school;
they look like her. I wonder if they're mean yet.
Good luck & I wish for you a future of savings accounts
solely for travel & cream-colored couches.
I have Facebook pages to stalk, the knowledge
to comfort a bullied child & a trip sadly
scheduled for next summer.
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