Two Poems by Lucille Lang Day
































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Reject ]ell-O

The man I married twice
at fourteen in Reno, again in Oakland
the month before I turned eighteen

had a night maintenance job at General Foods.
He mopped the tiled floors and scrubbed
the wheels and teeth of the Jell-O machines.
I see him bending in green light,
a rag in one hand,
a pail of foamy solution at his feet.
He would come home at seven a.m.
with a box of damaged Jell-O packages,
including the day's first run,
routinely rejected, and go to sleep.
I made salad with that reject Jell-O

lemon, lime, strawberry, orange, peach

in a kitchen where I could almost touch
opposing walls at the same time
and kept a pie pan under the leaking sink.
We ate hamburgers and Jell-O almost every night
and when the baby went to sleep,
we loved, snug in the darkness pierced
by passing headlights and a streetlamp's gleam,
listening to the Drifters and the Platters.
Their songs wrapped around me
like coats of fur, I hummed in the long shadows
while the man I married twice
dressed and left for work.


Applying for AFDC

I sat in the Welfare Office
in nylons and spike-heeled shoes,
hair stacked to make my height
between six-two and six-four.

I wore a tight black sleeveless dress,
a black eyeliner mole
on my right cheek, and a gold
snake bracelet coiled on my upper arm.

A woman in tennis shoes and a red muumuu,
who'd been waiting all morning,
cursed the girl at the desk.
A small boy yelled, "Right on!"

Social workers frowned in all the doorways.
I chain-smoked Marlboros
and paced the floor. Changing
my baby's diapers for the third time

in the restroom, I noticed my shadow
a flat lady, cringing in the corner.
The gaudy one in the mirror grimaced at me.
You'd think owed them something
strangers I'd rather ignore.



LUCILLE LANG DAY'S previous poetry collections are Fire in the Garden (Mother's Hen) and Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope (Berkeley Poets' Workshop and Press), which received the Joseph Henry Jackson Award in Literature.  Lucille Day's new book of poems, Wild One, is published by Scarlet Tanager Books, 2000). Her poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Portland Review, The Threepenny Review and elsewhere.