NOSTALGIA FOR AN ALABAMA SUMMER NIGHT
When the sky was still rose-gold,
the air still perfumed with cut grass
and magnolias, I was made to go to bed early,
to shut and latch the window.
Outside: light fading from the flowering pear,
and soon, the distant dinosaur rumble of the mosquito truck,
dispensing Resmethrin to the neighborhood.
A sound as familiar as the dryer’s rhythm,
approaching and falling away again, like waves
on some Jurassic shore. We needed it.
Back then, it seems, the mosquitoes were bigger,
like hairy-legged teacups. A neighbor died of West Nile.
I saw the truck only once, wanted to know
the source of the sound, watch mosquito corpses
fall immediately from the sky.
I stood with the sharp orange innards of acorns
pressing into my feet and watched it pass,
unassuming, the older kids trailing behind on bikes,
their infinity loops half-hidden in the poisonous spray.
It was different than not knowing,
and different than not caring, too,
like smoking your first cigarette, maybe a clove
in the alleyway beside Tomatino’s,
someone beautiful holding the lighter,
when you’re fourteen and cancer is as far away as Mars.
It gave us a thirst for mild chemical danger --
sodium nitrites, swimming in polluted rivers.
Made it forever impossible to fall asleep
without the persistent murmur of some machine.
I remember the mosquito truck the way my grandmother
remembers making dinner in the 50’s,
eating pinches of raw hamburger. Back then, it seems,
the meat was fresher, the neighborhoods safer.
Pregnant women could drink martinis
and doctors still used forceps - that’s why
my father’s ears came out crooked.
Now my grandmother drinks spinach smoothies
and never goes outside.
When I visit her, she moves my cell phone
to the other side of the room before bed,
says I’ll thank her when I’m older and I don’t have tumors
from that thing and its frequencies. She remembers Thalidomide
and tanning without sunscreen, says you can never be too careful
about what might destroy you later.
Maybe she’s right about it, this risk I’ll take
in favor of falling asleep to a text from a friend,
telling me, I love you. Take care of yourself.
Milo Gallagher’s poems appear or are forthcoming in The Grief Diaries, The Fem, Crab Fat Magazine, Anomaly, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. He is an MFA candidate at Mills College.