The third time I skinned both my knees
the summer I was eight, my mother
just shook her head. You’ll have scabs
on top of your scabs, she sighed,
as she painted them both with Mercurochrome,
that vile red liquid antiseptic that stung
worse than the scrapes themselves.
She eased my pain with a cherry Popsicle,
the sweet and cold in my mouth offsetting
the hot throbbing in my knees. Afterward,
I went outside and showed Danny next door
my war-painted battle scars, then stuck out
my cherry-stained tongue, and told him
I drank some of the Mercurochrome.
Yuck! he cried.
It was a day full of red: Danny’s big sister Julie
sashayed by to show off her new red sundress
and flip hairdo. I told her she looked like Sandra Dee,
but Danny said she smelled like onions. Later,
a fire engine screamed through the neighborhood
when Mr. Berry knocked over his barbecue grill
and set his lawn on fire. Fresh cut grass and charcoal
smell good, but not when they’re put together.
I read in my science class that when the sun
goes down, the reds are the first colors to fade.
By dusk, my knees were no longer bright red,
and evening sounds took over for the colors –
the ice cream man on a late run, mosquitoes
teasing my ears, the Fisker brothers setting off
firecrackers in the woods, my parents watching
Jackie Gleason in the living room. I got ready for bed,
pulling my pajama pants over my tender knees,
which were already beginning to heal.