On a cafeteria table,
in the middle of February,
the kind where it gets dark at 5pm,
sat eight minature figurines made of shells—
brown, speckled, like a calico cat
with googly eyes on the middle of their heads,
one business man with a black derby,
one with a pretty pink bow,
or even one with blue suspenders,
and all their chubby bellies
rounding out over their pants. The woman
with her iridescent nails, bony fingers,
the skin pressed thin against her knuckles,
lines them up in a perfect row, tilting
their heads into one another as if
they are having a tiny conversation
admist the numbers being called—
B14! She stamps in red. B14!
A man pushes a cart around the tables,
like one mows grass around graves,
with fifty cent candy bars and potato chips
on flimsy paper plates. He asks the woman
if she wants ice in her Pepsi, but she just blows
a long sigh of smoke and flicks the sparks
behind her back. He doesn’t ask her to pay.
G56! She touches the head of the figurine
with the mustache. G56! I’ve lost count
of how many numbers I’ve missed,
but then there’s you, your hand on my thigh,
creeping, your fingers pushing
my cotton skirt up, up, and up—
We play with acrylic chips instead of stampers.
We’d like to win the lottery tickets,
maybe cash them in at the gas station
after we drink a couple iced teas and snack
on Mentos cause we ran out of money
two bottles ago.
The figurine with the fishing pole has one pupil
that lies at the bottom of the eye,
lop-sided, and staring at me while I pretend
that I have G47! or pretend that this isn’t
the first time you’ve brought me here, G47!
instead of a real date. Or pretend
that I can’t hear the woman cough, and cough,
and cough as she switches stampers between every ten calls
or touch this figurine or move that one, just slightly,
this way or that or
N44! She doesn’t have it. N44!
I don’t have it.
Don’t worry, child, you’ll have it all someday,
she whispers, sideways from her mouth,
with your thumb making circles around my hipbones,
and the man pushing the cart, the squeak of the wheels
B7! But I don’t have it. B7! I don’t have it.
I don’t have it.