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Just a Girl

ISSUE:  Fall 2009

Billie Jean 

Her sister’s water broke this morning and her Cymbalta’s
not working and she’s soon to be homeless because those
twin nephews are fast on their way but today her ex-lover’s
baby mother is going to be at the Flag Day parade
and she’s lost weight and fuck if she’s not gonna look
tight and fine so she spanks on the elastic of her best
tube dress and props each pale leg on the sink for a quick
dry shave and straps on her five-dollar sandals, the ones
with rhinestones gleaming over clear plastic
heels, and with three boys in tow and her sister’s
toddler in a stroller, she struts down the parade route
past a tall Uncle Sam while men swear Goddamn!
in the direction of her glorious and soft American
ass. This is what I live for, she says, this is why
I go outside, you shoulda saw the other day what I
had on oh my god I swear to god I could not get
down the block, and the spectating girls jiggle their
babies and smack their lips talking this that and the
third about her as her epic hollow hearts of gold
bamboo swing low in each ear winking I LOVE YOU
in silver script and when she turns to witness her ex’s
baby mother suck her teeth, the tattoo on her neck flexes
the words JUST A GIRL like the Michael Jackson song—
She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one—and when she
turns, the street lights up behind her with the shine
of trumpets, cymbals crash and the dancing girls of Troy High
throw their glittering foil hoops in the air. That afternoon
on her way to the store Billie Jean smiles at the driver of a
passing van as he hoots to his nephew: Hey boy, look at that!
One day you’ll have something like that!
and she strikes back:
Take a picture, it’ll last longer and poses low and leggy on a
stoop and he takes her picture with his phone, saves it
with her number so he can say to his friends, Take a look
at my new baby, Billie Jean
, this girl who is not
his lover but who may be, possibly and soon, because
this girl has the look of love, the look of the broken-
hearted: her bent-over body glows in his phone just
for him and she wears this expression of what might be
a promise, what might be trouble, this image of her
fading in the palm of his hand as her sweet ass
switches its way down the block and makes a
grown man exclaim God Bless America!


In Verse is supported by Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0, an initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. This project is made possible with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a broadcast partnership with Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.


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