In the Color-Grinding Years

by Andrea Jurjević

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.