backpockets-sidebyside (1)

Every hellish hot August, Mom loaded
her three stair-stepped boys
into a Chevy Impala

and drove 40 miles
to the nearest JCPenney,
plopped square and ugly in a “big city”

strip mall. Even in the ’70s,
she hadn’t abandoned the annual share-
cropper rite of “settlin’ up,”

when farmers, flush with cash—if ever
such a thing—bought staples
for a whole ragged

year. And the jeans we got?
Always cheap Wranglers, not Levis
like we wanted,

cause she had to cover a bunch
of boy parts with something that didn’t
remind her of ’40s overalls

and once-a-week washday stink.
So, we Wrangled our way
through middle school and never

sported the red tab and leather
patch and wore those son-of-a-bitches,
stiff as planks, down

to “stonewash,” before “stonewashed”
cost money, and then
cut ’em off come late May

and swam in Blue Holes by the Flint
River and sang in our ripped
jeans like the sea,

cause wearing out was all we knew
deep in our genes—a rich
aquifer of “gettin’ by” and “makin’ do.”


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