Madonna in a glittering green jacket.
Gold, 3-D pyramid on the back.
Ray-Bans. Crispy hair held back
with a black scarf. She is Susan.
Her suitcase is a drum case!
I stare at my small TV, the way mousy
Roberta watches Susan, follows her.
The first time I see the movie
I’m seven. I call my dad— desperate
to have one of his beat-up drum cases.
I want a badge of coolness to carry
through Queens on my way to school.
Something to let everyone know
that I was who they wanted to be.
I know he needs the cases
to move his bass drum, toms, his wide
gold-coin cymbals to weddings, jazz gigs.
But, I plead, what about one of the others?
I’ve been to his cramped Manhattan studio
enough times to know that almost every
piece of furniture is somehow made of drum cases.
Tables, night stands, chairs. Where would we eat
our pizza and Oreos? he asks. He has a point.
But what would Susan do? She wouldn’t
take no for an answer. So I beg and pester
for the whole year. I am a girl in love with the 80s.
I never get a case, of course. And, eventually,
my dad moves to a house in Connecticut. Buys
real furniture. Stores his drums in the garage.
After the tumor, after the surgery, he loses
hearing in his left ear and never
quite catches a perfect rhythm again.
I grow to dislike Madonna. Distrust her
fake British accent and Kabbalah
beads. But I’ll keep seeking out
Susan. That wild woman of New York
City, of my youth. There’s something about
the first image of beauty that will never fade.
The tart smell of Aqua Net. The brown
spot on the back of a bass drum
where the foot pedal thuds on the first and third beats.
Skull and cross-bones suitcase, pink satin lining.
Hollowed-out drum case filled with
big earrings, lace bustiers, black leather
bracelets, and rhinestone-studded boots.
These are my talismans of desire. Tokens
I’ll sheepishly think of when I think of
beauty. The way dad might imagine
animal skin stretched across wood. Or
how I’ll never stop wanting that drum case.
Something of that desperate longing will always remain.
Now I know you're mine, now I know you're mine.