(AWP Intro Journal Award Winner)
Blue Collar Brown
Baba ordered from the Kmart catalog
after he saw the stick-pen circles drawn
on store circulars, featuring pink Jeeps
that flashed in ads between cartoons.
If I didn’t watch Blue’s Clues so much,
I could’ve found the ones Baba left—
but he was rehearsed: his finger traced
down column K in the Yellow Pages.
Was he wearing the decade-old bifocals
from Bangladesh? He couldn’t read
the fine print without them. I could’ve
watched where he stopped on the listings,
listened for digits clicking on the keypad.
Perhaps the corded tendons in my neck
told him to be timely: before the beeps,
before anticipation unfolded from
my clasped hands. I tangled and twirled
the curly cord when the line was in-use,
but he was tactful, with his white coat
locked away in a suitcase. He once made
deliveries. On the opposite end, he waited
for the absent phone operator. I could’ve
listened for the cue of elevator music,
counted the seconds he was placed on hold—
I’d like to order a Barbie car.
The silent salesperson didn’t ask him
to enunciate his thick Bangla-English,
with aspirated spaces for articles—
Mamoni, the Barbie car is on backorder.
Until the girly-girl phase faded when
I was eight, I waited for the delivery
at the staircase—lost before I could
unclip the off-the-hook secret
and set it in the cradle. It will be here soon.
The call got lost and crackled
with the dial tone echo in the coil.