Dialogue, 2011 by Liliana Porter
Paterson, New Jersey: The Girls
On Cedar and Summer Streets
had names like songs,
like arias in fact,
that rose and fell
in handfuls of confetti
across the sun.
Santa and Rosa,
tucked like a holy picture inside your missal,
Teresa, Angela, Gracia,
church bell glitter falling
like the angels as they sing us into evening,
Sylvia, Stella, Maria
gleaming in moonlight.
Like hymns the mother’s voices
rang down the sidewalk
and girls we called Connie and Pam and Sina
dropped the end of the jump rope
and became a soft percussion of steps,
a murmur of acquiescence,
the creak of a screen door.
Christiana who got to watch the nuns eat in the convent
because her mother cooked for them,
Carmella carrying altar lace,
Caterina celestial in her wedding cake Sunday dresses,
Cosmina and Mariana graceful as boats adrift at sea.
All of them except me.
Ei -----leen !
My mother bellowed,
with an emphasis on the “eye”,
her voice at full tilt,
rain-lashed and battered
as the Irish cliffs in a storm,
smoky as their pubs every night of the week.
The street went silent all of a sudden,
As the girls I turned my back on made the sign of the cross,
and I took the longest way home I could.