the wax paper


Carl Boon

The construction workers 

in Ümit’s little shop

have come for cigarettes and beer.

They put their ten-lira notes

on the counter and giggle like girls

whose dates have come early 

in unfamiliar cars. One—just a boy

whose beard is thin—whistles 

a song he heard on the radio

Something about his mother,

something about the joy

of birds. All are happy, it being

Saturday evening and they’ve built

something, even in the rain. Walls

to be the walls of a bathroom

soon, or one of many doorways

children are going to walk through. I

listen—I don’t understand 

their Kurdish phrases, their faces

that at once are young and old.

I’d have disappeared already, washed

the paint flecks from my neck, 

the dust from my wrists. But it being

Saturday evening they must 

celebrate, they must pretend 

their work is done, the great work

their fathers failed to do.


They called them theaters then,

and there had to be a velvet rope, 

a big bronze ash tray pierced with four cigars,

and a man who tore our yellow tickets—

a man whose beard was yellow

and suspicious. There had to be 

a boy who brought us to our seats,

a high school boy in a bow tie 

who expected a nickel and loved

the occasional dime and a girl called June

whose father disapproved of everything.

We learned about Germany in newsreels

and loved when Errol Flynn danced,

knocking about in boots 

we had to have. I was kissed 

in the Palace on Main Street 

by a girl who smelled like spearmint 

and Ivory soap, and so I discovered

what it meant to be a man. For days 

my mouth tingled and almost hurt. 

Some days we skipped geometry to go,

calling ourselves wild adventurers,

forcing scandals that never came to be.

When we had to leave, the air outside

was always too bright, too natural,

unskimmed with the silver and black

that framed our heroes.

Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Boon recently edited a volume on the sublime in American cultural studies.