Photo by Gonzolo, retrieved from:

by Marcus Colasurdo

You say you want to know America?
Well, here it is.
I come in off the rainy street —
The spectrum in an oil slick
leads me through
a potholed parking lot
to a mini-mall sidewalk:
4 stores open
2 boarded up.
I jiggle the quarters in my pocket.
A steam squall swells the place’s windows to fog.
Buds n’ Suds.
or Mr. & Mrs. Clean Dreams —
or Zapata Sparkle & Shine
or 655 St. Tumble n’ toil!
You name it,
America will be there.

I lug my sack inside
eyeballing for empty machines:
I find one and plop drop
my silver in the slot,
add powder
and search out a seat.
The plastic chairs are
of the county lockup TV room variety —
one ass size fits all,
narrow and curved just so,
slightly wrong.
The tables are taken by
Dominican moms and their kids:
two, four, six, eight!
Who you want to celebrate?
Girls and boys
cells and toys
and every one of them
shines shy smiles at me,
hence, so do their moms.
A seat is offered
A space is shared.
Spanish sidles up to English,
English asks Spanish to dance.
Music is provided,
4 quarters at a time
By the clanging bang-bang
of the change machine,
on the tube,
Oprah is opening her earth umbrella.
On the floor,
a dog-eared newspaper
bullets the borders of the world.
On a folding table,
a circular offers autos
detailed by El Maestro;
another one promises nails
salon’d by Ms. Li, the 6th Street queen.
So, you want to know America?
Find out where its women are
at 2 in the afternoon.
Forget the editorials
stomp-stomping the people
whose kids are asking me to play
some weird triple Lego game
on their phones.
Forget your nouns and learn
a few verbs,
forget the time you were afraid
to dark-room dance,
forget the mask
and casino down another quarter —
because everybody aqui
on this open cloud afternoon
has come for the very same reason:

Just to get their shit clean.

Marcus Colasurdo is the author of 11 books. Over the years, he has worked as varied as Los Angeles taxi-cab driver to Job Corps counselor. He is the founder of the Soul Kitchen, a community meals and clothing program (in Baltimore, MD and Hazleton, PA) that currently feeds 400 folks monthly and provides various other much-needed items to needy folks in those communities. He is also a member of  Anthracite Unite. 

Also by Marcus Colasurdo
The Simple Justice of Eating
Unchained Pierogis
Letter of Transit


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