When I Was a Jersey Girl

When I Was a Jersey Girl
by Maureen Seaton
When I was a Jersey girl I hid
my Jersey ways. Predictable as milk, I
paled predictably when New Yorkers said:
Jersey? and they were right. They despised
my yellow Jersey plates, my Garden State
cockeyed, solipsistic, anesthetized
take on pig farming in that isolate,
Secaucus, my bowling with extended
family at the Elizabeth Lanes—
Pizza, Rheingold, Lucky Strikes. Uncle Ed
disappeared for years in his Acme
apron with the chop-meat stains. I bled
red clay. Mosquitoes binged around me
like bulimic fiddles. At night they popped
through bedroom-window screens, small Harry
Houdinis, spiraling for my sopping
hairline, my ears and eyes, tiny vampires
of shrinking shoreline, stinking sucking swamp.
I tunneled and bridged myself away, tired
of Mammoth and Union, crewcutted, baffled
boys in a state without a real team. My
accent grew anonymous, stifled.
My cosmopolitan tongue swelled. I lied:
Born, not raised. I said: water, wash, castle
inconspicuously, as if I
were a famous radio announcer paid
to sound generically benign as pie.

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