I couldn’t stomach that word extinction,
its 3 syllables of finality stuck in my throat.
Saturdays the 5&10s were packed with kids
hunting for their favorite plastic dinosaurs.
How pampered they looked on their prehistoric
shelves—stegosaurus with his tail of spikes,
the jolly duckbilled trachodon, plesiosaurus
had a painted sea to swim in, while pterodactyls
hung from wires above miniature volcanoes
ready to erupt. My friends all grabbed
for tyranosaur, that Jurassic superstar, but
T-Rex reminded me of “Do Do” Petrosky,
the Webb St. bully who always spit
thick green hockers in your hair.
My pick: brontosaurus, gentle giant,
wader of primordial marshlands, chubby
and good-natured as my friend “Fat”
Heaster, the school screw-up, whom
everyone dumped on, even our nuns.
Bronto, like Fat, was going to be a buddy.
I raced home from school to play our game
“dress-up.” No tag, no hide-and-seek, no
stick ball could excite me like dressing up
a dinosaur in my sister’s doll clothes.
How fabulous he looked in two pairs of red
high heels! A black velour cape made a chic
statement with a pearl Barbie anklet.
And didn’t that long slender neck just cry
out for a necklace improvised from a teeny
diamond tiara? My sister’s injunction—
“Make that bastard give back Barbie’s
accessories!”—brought a visit from Uncle A.
who sat perplexed in our kitchen
as my mother and aunt explained
the problem. He knew what to say when
we had our chat about not peeping through
the keyhole when my teenage cousin,
with the big boobs, was showering,
or why guys never, never sit down to do
number one like the ladies (“Don’t you
damn women teach the boy anything?”
he grumbled, popping a can of Schmidt’s.)
But this was different. Dinosaurs in drag?
He laughed like hell and said to me, “Kiddo,
you’re odd as a cod.” But I was 7 and had
read how climates changed, glaciers spread,
dinosaurs died out. Extinct. Did my imagination
need to protest that Ex-word of monumental
proportions? Did I want to dress up
my fears in flamboyant garb and trod
down a glittering runway? Who knows?
Maybe I loved the idea of a long lost behemoth—
with brain the size of a cat-eye marble,
the kind I used to play Fat Heaster for—
putting on a show. Wardrobe! Makeup! Lights!
When you got it, baby, flaunt it!
Alfred Encarnacion has taught writing at Temple University, published poetry, short stories, essays, and reviews in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, and the Paterson Literary Review. His poems have twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has published two books of poetry: The Outskirts of Karma in 2012 and Ambassadors of the Silenced in 2016. His book Library Suite was a finalist in the Moonstone Chapbook Contest and will be published in June 2019. His latest short story, “Sunday Elvis,” appears in the current issue of Schuylkill Valley Journal and has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is the current director of the Stratford Public Library in New Jersey.