Because I was only 7 the first time he prodded
Because I didn't know anything was wrong
Because in my innocence I liked the attention
Because no one ever talked about such things
Because he told me that I used to like it
Because he was so beloved by all
Because he said I should have known better
Because he stopped when my thighs grew fat
Because I didn’t understand why I felt rejected
Because with every because
with every because
with every because
I felt the shame of it, the fault of it
Because he said no one would believe me
Because he was grown and I was not
Because the ones I loved would be hurt if they knew
Because the ones I loved
Would be hurt
If they knew.
On Remembering Poverty
Mom and Dad worked for the auto industry.
Mom made tires; Dad helped the white bosses
understand the speech of black men who lived by
Nichols and John R. Each year, at least one of them
was laid off. Some years—both of them. Pop—a can of biscuits. Hmm—the can opener.
Hiss of breaks as the government truck dropped
a load of rice, ground meat, and government cheese.
One time I heard Mom say to someone on the phone
she blew the manager at the Woolworth’s so we could have clothes
and school supplies. I asked if she liked blowing bubbles.
Oversized sleeve hits the middle of my hand—
a coat embossed with Motor Wheel hangs like
flowing drapes on a bay window. Tammy
snaps and pops her Bazooka, straining pink
air pocket gives way, leaves pink goo
on her face. Red curl encircles the pointer.
Uh, interesting coat. My coat is rabbit.
Her Prepubescent Mafia goons laugh.
I tell her, My coat is paid for.
I still use my purses until the straps are
worn out or broken, until the leather peels.
$299 for Michael Kors, my favorite brand. I look
but never buy. $49 for a decent knockoff.
Better yet, $12.99 for a used Coach at Goodwill.
An old part of my brain waits for the Macy’s store clerk
to know I am a fraud, to tell me I don’t belong.
I bring my purchase to the front, wait for
suspicion, for instructions that tell me
to open my bag so she can look inside.
Janette Schafer is a poet, playwright, nature photographer, part-time rock singer and full-time banker living in Pittsburgh, PA. She is a Chatham University MFA student in Creative Writing. Her poem "What we want to remember about this river" won the 2019 Laurie Mansell Reich/Academy of American Poets Prize. Her play Mad Virginia won the 2018 Pittsburgh Original Short Play Series. Her writing and photography has been published in numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers. Janette recommends the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.