In the Color-Grinding Years

by Andrea Jurjević

after C.D. Wright

In the prewar and in the postwar          we made colors
usually in the school bathroom             between classes

a swarm of girls crowding          the graffitied walls
some of us entered          one of the three narrow stalls

in pairs                   one pulling jeans down to her knees
her shirt a wrinkled valance          over her downy hive

babbling as she eased herself off          the thin piss
streaming down the porcelain bowl     while the other

cigarette between her lips                   added to the wall art
don’t pour fucking confidence into me, I’ll drown          signed

the lost generation         or some such budding latrine poetry
others, by the sink     bit waxy tips off colored pencils

and crushed them          into the pale stick of chewing gum
torching it into something bright          explosive          reckless

between teeth              the meat-red pigment in the flesh
of the gum blossomed into a striped carnation

a green nib would bust          into a spiky horse chestnut
meanwhile our mothers        picked stones out of green

coffee beans       dyed our clothing electric in soup pots
in those years                   we had a case of color madness

busied ourselves concealing     the blank featherless white
until everything was disco-fresh          all was sunny forsythia

foxy foxglove             the provocative-purple of sage
lilac                 blue lilac          god, lilac so blue

it’s the one color I still notice               mouth still watering 

Andrea Jurjević is a poet and translator from Rijeka, Croatia. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Believer, EPOCH, TriQuarterly, Best New Poets, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of Small Crimes, winner of the 2015 Philip Levine Prize, and translator of Mamasafari (Lavender Ink, 2018), a collection of prose poems in Croatian by Olja Savičević. A 2018 Georgia Author of the Year, Andrea lives in Atlanta, Georgia