My 1981

Stephanie Burt

Everyone’s younger sibling was still in a stroller,
learning to drink from a cup or put on a dress.
Everyone’s mom was overseeing additions

to our beige, orange and air-conditioned kitchens,
choosing the tiles: cake batter, peach, mallow, rose-pink.
They matched the crayons that matched our skins.

Everyone’s dad was a lawyer, or else in government service.
Our teachers were also moms. They returned our work
on time, with spiky stars, in green and purple ink.

I had one friend who was actually my friend.
He liked to argue that law-abiding Americans
would end up safer if we all owned guns.

He knew about BMXes, and how to surf,
or said he did. I didn’t know what to think.
Each week on TV we awaited the motorcycles

of the bold, law-abiding, wisecracking police.
All summer his little sister ran circles around us
so we decided she had to be the Flash.

After his friends’ older friends
TP’d the split-level houses
beside our own, rain turned their thinning banners
the colour of sun-burnt, crumpled American cash.