August: When a Window Unit Is Not Enough
By the time late afternoon comes, the air has chased us outside
and pressed us to the sidewalks, where we drag our limbs,
heavy as if made from shimmering blacktop,
as we walk to the corner store or to the snoball stand
which will sell us something to alleviate the heat.
Sweat rolls down our faces like raindrops on speeding cars;
we try to brush it away with our fingertips,
but our hands are hydroplaning across our foreheads.
We look forward to the five o’clock cold rinse
that we will take in the shower.
The streets become wavy. We become wavy.
We stop at Miss Alice’s for frozen cups
and press them against our cheeks,
which are as red as the syrup in our treats. We squeeze the cups,
shove the huckabucks back in, and scrape the sweet off with our teeth.
When the tepid water hits our nakedness,
the heat leaks from our skin, like subway steam from the sidewalks up north
where residences have few air conditioners. They don’t know the pleasure
of letting the window unit blow the body cold and dry.
We take turns standing in front, watching the dust flutter in the filter.
As it grows dark, the humidity creeps closer to us.
The jasmine releases its cloying fragrance, blending with the smell of barbecue;
the mosquitoes dance from arm to arm, enjoying the sugar in our blood;
the children run outside to play, dirt clinging to their damp, scabbed legs;
the air conditioners make puddles in every alley, and we sweat on the stoop.