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The Dollar Dance by Jennifer Shneiderman



We called my feral cousin Little Jimmy

son of Big Uncle Jimmy

a greasy-haired New Orleans roustabout.

Little Jimmy’s eight-year-old arm

broke through our storm door

shattered glass, blood, so many stitches

a wild, tortured body

searching, ungrounded

steeped in Louisiana trailer park chaos

expelled

evaluated, analyzed, diagnosed, medicated

expelled again.

He didn’t know his own weakness.

Little Jimmy

plays the drunk wallflower

his half-brother

half-Jewish

half-Mexican wedding

the bride sways and twirls

a dollar dance delirium

pinned bills flap

like trapped green butterfly wings

mariachis in full swing

playing the hora.

Little Jimmy

robs his brother at gunpoint

spiriting away

the dollar dance dress

disappearing on a motorcycle

in guilt of night.

He will only lean against hearses and

smoke at family funerals

staring through James Dean bangs

not welcome to shovel dirt.

He didn’t know his own weakness.


Little Jimmy

visits me

triumphant on a

shiny blue motorcycle

greeting me with his

meth-blackened mouth

the habit passed

the stain remains

an easy dismount

wiry adult figure more at ease

finding its place in the world

a master Audi mechanic

a husband

a father.

We drink sweet tea

produce Polaroids

pieces of our personal puzzles

a mezuzah on a New Iberia trailer

his mother’s glass eye swimming to the right

a futile escape effort

from that reality.

Little Jimmy’s little sister impregnated

by a homeless man

their parents had the heart

and foolishness

to take in.

The elopement, the FBI giving chase

when Jimmy and pregnant Penny ran away.

Jimmy’s twins, all grown up now.

Little Jimmy

leaves me with

uneasy sadness and

thoughts of a money dress

stripped bare.

His world

a world away from mine.

A few years later

he wrapped that shiny blue motorcycle

around a light pole in Rhode Island.

He didn’t know his own weakness.


Jennifer Shneiderman (she/her) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in many publications, including: The Rubbertop Review, Writers Resist, Anti-Heroin Chic, Dwelling and The Perch. She received an Honorable Mention in the Laura Riding Jackson 2020 Poetry Competition. Twitter: @JenniferShneid3

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