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Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, semifinalist


Another Shirley Temple


A curvy path, down steep steps
that lead to a sidewalk.
“Don’t step on the cracks.”
I tug on his tattooed arm,
my blue name never washing off.
His Popeye the Sailor Man grin,
animated eyes squint.

He turns a doorknob
opening to a barroom
dark as a cave.
Letters glow neon orange, red.
“A Shirley Temple and a Ballantine”
“Like valentine?” I ask.

He winks.
One, two buckle my shoes
lift off of a sticky floor,
and I sail to the top of a red stool,
bobbing like the cherry
in my sweet drink.

A jukebox weeps.
I spin round and round like a 45,
skip to “A Tisket a Tasket,”
find a dartboard, shuffleboard,
but nobody plays here.
So I feed a nickel to a machine,
lift a metal tongue.
Cashews slide down a chute
into my palm.

I watch him empty
glass after glass of beer,
talking about his work, work
in the mill all night, night
while I sleep
weaving dreams.

Raising a little glass,
he drinks down brown stuff
like the lemon and honey
he spoons down my throat
when I’m sick.
He insists I wear raw onions
in each sock at bedtime
to pull the fever out of me
through my feet.

After the little glass of brown,
he downs another glass of beer
without stopping, burping,
"Exxcuusse me!” I laugh.
Red-faced men with whiskers laugh.

Patting my back,
he orders me
another Shirley Temple.
My glass sweats,
the ice cubes rattle.

I jump down from my stool,
lead him out of the cave,
turn the corner, past red roses,
up three steps, through the door,
and onto the sofa where he stops
flopping like Popeye
after Brutus knocks him out.

I reach for his hand.













Diane Sahms-Guarnieri has lived in Philadelphia most of her life. She won the Judith Stark Prize in poetry. She is a certified high school English teacher and mother of three. Her poems have appeared in Limited Editions, Folio, Mad Poets Review, Creative Communications, and Philadelphia Stories (12/10/04)
She is a member of "Suppose an Eyes" Poetry Group that meets at the Kelly Writers House on the University of Pennsylvania's campus and runs a poetry workshop in Center City Philadelphia at the Voices and Vision Bookstore.