When my daughter asks about my childhood
My heart becomes a crow eating glass crumbs
At the scene of a car crash
The memories’ brilliance and their jagged edges
Compete for the preeminence in the story.
I hesitate to answer.
Sometimes, it was a bedroom
full of ropes and rusty bicycle chains
used for everything but to escape.
Sometimes, it was a cold, blue tile bathroom
With an electric cord stretched from wall to wall
as a winter’s clothesline, with rags
dripping water over my head as punishment.
Then there was the smell of burned out fuse
In my mother’s dresses, abandoned in a hallway
Full of tornado departures and quicksand come backs.
And the man, so full of love
he couldn’t help being mean.
The living room was small enough to die in it
And my favorite game was to travel its perimeter
From couch to chair to couch and back
without ever touching the floor.
My first savior was a transistor radio
And my original sin was to steal a book.
I am unfair to my story, I am sure,
Now that I have travelled from world to world
Without ever needing to touch my soil again.
I judge it with the knowledge of things
I was never supposed to see
Or have them be mine
Bright feathered opportunities
and plush soft support systems
Wrapped up with pink bow sentences
beginning with “I feel”
Their brilliance overshadows the primal love
Of steep cliff arms, whose devotion
Taught me how to embrace the fall
And always land on my feet.
My unemployed father didn’t smoke for three months
To buy my first bicycle,a rattling old thing,
with as much power as a rodeo of tired horses.
My mother, the librarian, gave me the key
to the jailhouse of forbidden books.
My grandmother taught me to tame the mammoth
of the mechanical sewing machine
so I would never have to be naked, or go hungry.
She taught me to spin the wheel of patience
and never cut any corners
Until I arrived at something beautiful
My grandfather, the beekeeper
Taught me to walk through a swarm of enemies
Without getting bit.
I come from people with jammed hearts
Who did not believe in God or childhood magic
Whose love was not supposed to lift its neck
in the presence of a flock of preying strangers
For fear of making its offspring the target
of wars and dictators
their devotion never unfurled
Until I drove away from the scene of the story
And met their eyes in the rear view mirror
Following me with the longing
Of a middle-of-nowhere gas station
The “come back” sign flickering in the dusk
a tireless heartbeat, a brilliant reminder
Love is an object always closer than it appears