Smog and Swear Words
by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

To the east, crossing the streets
named for oil men and less abstract
speculators, ozone and complaints
clamber up to their hanging point:
a sheet, a curtain, a shroud; the cotton
stages of sky that reveal its scars
as pastels. The first time I had to

consider the sky this way, the new
girl had moved to the neighborhood
from Virginia Beach, Virginia, a name
I knew but could not place. I was just
getting over my David Cassidy crush.
It was so much more brutually nuanced
than ritual love of other girls my age,

and the clouds made a belt around the
new girl’s house: The fog that came to
us from the west, but not like the real
fog to which she was accustomed; but
a tidal wave of the particulate, she said,
sifted down to its lint and excess by a
cadre of prospectors. That was how wealth

was created in the early days, I told her,
but she was regretful, and her first beef
was with her parents. They had uprooted
her from the junior high where she was
just beginning to become outrageously
popular. Now she would never be all the

things that she wanted: a psychiatrist,
a marine biologist, a trainer of thoroughbreds.
And she could only hope for where the
wind might take her next, for philosophy
was nothing more than linguistics, without
the visuals, now. The mouths of canyons,
the tunnels and Movie ranches; the cheek-

to-jowl-to-tongue measurements that
determine course and sound: the width of
her accent, lazy at the precipices, with the
dirty words to which she had unlimited access.
My own mother told me never to indulge in
their use, for they conflated races with
economics; the commissioned with the
enlisted, and believers with cheaters who
both keep ears close to the final resting grounds.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 2.

Jane Rosenberg LaForge lives in New York with her husband and daughter. She is the author of the full-length poetry collection “With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women” (The Aldrich Press 2012); and three poetry chapbooks.

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