On Tremont Avenue, 1961
Allowances in pocket, we walked to Tremont Avenue.
With fifty cents, I bought a ball.
Felt its perfect rounded, watched it bounce,
and knew sometimes you see what you want and get it.
And that’s why hunched-over ladies, paint-splattered men,
permed women pulling toddlers all pushed their way to bargains.
Even as we darted to the sale table or elbowed out
other arms reaching for the same thing, we never felt
our bodies stiffen with fear like they did when we passed
the lots of broken bottles, bent spoons and worn belts,
bare-boned dogs scrounging remnants of remnants.
On Tremont Avenue we were safe and shopping satisfied.
Nothing we bought there lasted long. But we’d go back,
buy another. Forget about what was broken or lost.
Michelle M. Tokarczyk grew up in a working-class family in New York City. She is the author of Bronx Migrations, The House I’m Running From, and the forthcoming To the Galapagos. Tokarczyk is also a co-editor of Working-Class Women in the Academy, and she is a previous President of the Working-Class Studies Association.
*Featured image, Boston Public Library.