When I was Eleven: Scenes from our Neighbor's 4th of July Party
Card tables lined up in the back yard: platters of cold fried chicken, brisket bleeding out of its aluminum foil container, green whipped cream salad studded with maraschino cherries, jarred sweet pickles, deviled eggs with flies on the yolks, chocolate sheet cake.
Hiding under the back deck with my legs crossed, refusing to swim through the adult-filled moat of the living room to get to the bathroom.
4th of July sparklers, bottlecaps and lit snakes glowing red, smell of sulfur and gunpowder, a boy shooting Roman Candles from his hand.
Chiggers jumping up from the cooling grass, the sky darkening to chicory color, the adults getting louder and drunker.
Finally ducking into the basement to pee in a small cinderblock bathroom smelling like paint thinner, then breaking into a knot of boys sprawled out on the orange shag rug by the washer and pouring over the Playboys they found— the centerfold's breasts like those huge pink balls we ducked in gym—eating Twizzlers, Red Hots and looking until I got sick.
Drinking something bottle green and minty that made us swoon, made us run up the three floors to the attic where we threw nude Barbies and Mr. Potato Heads down the laundry chute.
Dressing Davey up like a girl and someone stole the whole sheet cake and we ate it with our hands, scooping up fistfuls of goo.
Chasing the mosquito truck spraying DDT into the tall weeds by the cemetery where Tammy made her little brother pull down his pants to show us all his one missing ball.
I spread a white sheet under the mulberry tree in the backyard and someone shook berries loose and we all stomped, making tie-dye.
The adults were pounding the table and when I ran through the living room with muddy feet someone's dad gave me the finger.
Kendra hit David on the head with a brick and Sandra wouldn't come out of the bathroom because someone made fun of her barrettes and Tammy let someone stick a pencil up her vagina underneath the twin beds.
I kissed Amy's puffy nipples silky as a caterpillar's belly, we mixed sugar and butter together in a cup and ate it and we all found a dildo in a bedside drawer and dared each other to touch it but no one would.
Someone said Barbie was already pregnant and Greta was playing dead on the couch again and we played lighter than a feather, then we went to the bathroom and closed the door and looked unblinking at our faces in the mirror until tears streamed down our cheeks and our reflections started to double and someone said those were the ghosts that stand just outside each of us.
Sara Wallace is the author of The Rival (selected for the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize) and the chapbook Edge (selected for The Center for Book Arts Poetry Chapbook Competition). Her poetry has appeared in such publications as Agni, Hanging Loose, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry Daily, Yale Review and others. A recent participant in the Festival Internacional de Poesia, (Santiago, Chile) and a finalist for a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award, she is a recipient of a grant from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and fellowships from the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She currently teaches at New York University and lives in Queens.