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Monday, January 10, 2022


by Shirley J. Brewer

The funeral for a 14-year-old girl struck by a stray bullet fired during a police shooting at a North Hollywood clothing store is scheduled for Monday in Gardena, family attorneys said. The funeral for Valentina Orellana Peralta is scheduled for 11 a.m. at City of Refuge Church. The Rev. Al Sharpton will officiate and deliver the eulogy, family attorneys said in a statement. Valentina was shopping for Christmas clothes Dec. 23 when she was struck by a stray bullet fired by Los Angeles police who opened fire on a man attacking shoppers. A bullet went through an exterior wall of the dressing room and struck the girl, police said. —NBC Los Angeles, January 5, 2022

Growing up, I spent hours in dressing rooms
not much larger than an upright coffin,
lined with hooks and distorted mirrors—
my mother and I in such close proximity
the space felt like a birthing place.
Every zipper resembled an umbilical cord
I longed to slice in two.

Buried under a cluster of plaid skirts,
ugly corduroy pants—I ached for fresh air.
Holiday sales or back-to-school bargains
signaled dread. It wasn’t all torture.
Mom’s agony while squirming into
stiff girdles and voluminous brassieres
stirred laughing fits I could not suppress.

“Hold these pins,” she’d say
as I doubled over, spilling my M&M’s.
Sometimes we both dissolved in giggles.
Prom time called for battle tactics,
Mom fighting off the billowing crinolines,
eyeing bust and hem before the price tag.
She earned her corsage.

Looking back, I recognize the miracle—
how my mother and I emerged alive
from a thousand dressing rooms, how we walked
together into the safe burst of afternoon light.

A recent Pushcart nominee, Shirley J. Brewer serves as poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts in Baltimore, MD. Her poems appear in Barrow Street, Comstock Review, Gargoyle, The New Verse News, Poetry East, Slant, among other journals and anthologies. Shirley’s poetry books include A Little Breast Music (2008, Passager Books), After Words (2013, Apprentice House), and Bistro in Another Realm (2017, Main Street Rag). Shirley was a 2020 guest on The Poet and The Poem with Grace Cavalieri, broadcast from the Library of Congress.