Allyson Wuerth

Pine Row Issue No. 9 Spring 2024 - Featured Poet

Flipping Through People Magazine’s July 29, 1985 Issue, Thirty-Seven Years Later 

I buy it for the cover 

because it’s got Madonna 

and because my favorite vintage store 

in New Haven had an ephemera sale. 

July 29, 1985–Madonna squished between 

Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. 

Madonna in floral pants, 

her face, heart-shaped and so new. 

I buy it to blunt this ever stretching canvas of time, 

to imagine myself 

seven again, watching Live Aid with my father. 

He was thirty-five– 

more than a lifetime away from his own death 

alone in his rocking chair, 

“Maybe for days,” the police said. 

Days. Jesus, the thought of it crushes my heart. 

So I float back to the easy glitz of Madonna– 

sly smile, resting her knuckles under her chin, 

the only face I would have recognized 

on a magazine cover 

during the summer of ‘85 

when I spent my time on the front lawn 

with the neighbor girls– 

boombox blasting Dress You Up

Our three bodies folding over and over 

“from your head down to your toes. . .” 

wondering if the universe would one day 

make us Madonnas— 

confident, beautiful, strong women. 

With lace. 

With bracelets. 

With voice. 

I keep flipping until I see the teachers. 

Like the rock stars on the magazine’s cover, 

only not at all glamorous— 

they are the ten finalists 

hoping to blast off into space 

to float ahead of the universe 

the same way I persist 

in pinning myself to Earth. 

They give a thumbs up, wide smiles for the camera. 

Krista snug in the middle—oblivious to so many things 

that I want to tell her: 

You will be The One. 

You will almost go on a mission to outer space. 

You will die over the skies of Florida while I watch 

with my little brother 

on our living room carpet– 

him in his wet snow pants 

my hair rimed with ice. 

I want to tell her that January 28, 1986, 

the start of a brand new year, 

will really be the end for her. 

The both of us frozen there 

with nothing left to say– 

me, forever believing the sky had to open that way 

to let a spaceship through. 

And she, thirty-seven, blowing up like that– 

with the whole world watching. 

Then my father at seventy-three 

sometime in late August ‘23 

without the excruciating boom you’d expect to hear 

when someone you’ve loved forever dies. 

My blustery father, who for once in his life, made no sound at all. 

Though, when leaving my house that morning 

I swear I felt September aging the August air 

a touch that made me wonder if something else 

hadn’t disappeared 

along with the fading thrum of katydids high in the trees. 

37 or 73, 

seconds or years, 

Krista or Dad, 

the sizzle of a million wings— 

the always, always, always 

of the katydids. 

About the poem:  as shared by the poet

Since my father’s unexpected death last August, I’ve been deeply reflecting on my childhood and lamenting the loss of a man who tried his best, despite his struggle with mental illness. My emotions are very complicated, as is often the case with grief. When I saw the July 1985 issue of People Magazine (an issue dominated by both the Live Aid concert and the Challenger preparations), for sale at a little store called Vintanthro Modern in New Haven, CT, I bought it in the hopes of temporarily returning myself to a simpler time. But the more I looked through the issue, the more I considered that 1985 wasn’t quite as simple as I once remembered it being. I wondered about the colorful Live Aid musician photos, versus the black and white ones reserved for the Challenger finalists, as if even in the summer of 1985, they were destined to become part of the past. When I put the issue down, I couldn’t stop thinking about seconds, and minutes, and years, and the morning of the day I found out my father died. The poem is very much a stream of consciousness, how everything in my life led me to the feelings I have today.

Allyson Wuerth lives in a small Connecticut town where she is a mother, wife, and English teacher. She received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh and has published in a number of literary journals including Quarterly West, Connecticut Review, Maine Review and Cimarron Review. After a long hiatus, she decided to start writing again and it makes her feel very alive. 

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